My Own Science Challenge, how to run a genuine dowsing experiment you can do at home #research #math #citizenscience

18th century dowser

!8th century dowser, but the concept is older

I recently ran into this post on the Ideomotor Response, a real and captivating effect. You experience unconscious, unintentional physical movements that seem to contain knowledge beyond your own. It’s sort of neuromotor crosstalk that feels magical and has given us Ouija boards, automatic writing, and dowsing.

If you’ve never tried dowsing, give it a shot. It’s one of those remarkably compelling experiences that only science can sort out.

As I had a chance to see for myself.

Out here in rural New Mexico a lot of well drillers use, or at least offer, dowsing. I live on thick layers of ancient limestone and dolomite, crisscrossed with volcanic intrusions and alluvial deposits. Water is usually deep and not found in the lovely, predictable aquifer layers that favor much of North America. We see a lot of expensive dry holes.

Superstitions thrive when you seek an outcome that is very important but heavily influenced by chance. Whether winning a ball game or drilling a well, it’s hard to avoid developing a belief in lucky socks or dowsing. The ideomotor sensations are compelling – dowsers are honest people.

One of my neighbors was convinced he could detect water with dowsing rods. He was as curious as I was to find out if dowsing could be proven. We worked out a test protocol, and agreed that 5 or more “Hits” would be good evidence.

I added my procedure under the More Tag below – feel free to use it if you’d like.

Here are our results:

My neighbor got 2 hits, well within chance and below his expectation. He’s a bit mystified (indeed, one experiment needs to be replicated) but it was fun to be able to run an experiment ourselves.

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Lunar Eclipse on a Perfect Winter Morning #lunar #moon #eclipse #sky

Total lunar eclipse - Kate Rauner

Lunar eclipse from New Mexico 31JAN2018 – moon looks much more orange in picture than it did to my eye

Perfect morning for the lunar eclipse. I could stand at my kitchen sink and watch the moon through a window, then step out on my deck for a view of the whole sky. The morning was clear and calm. As moonlight dimmed, the stars grew brilliant. Then, just at totality, the rising dawn began washing them out again.

I live in the mountains of New Mexico, so once the usual morning breeze kicked up, I hopped back and forth – outside for a better view of the moon’s coppery blush, inside to warm up. Lunar eclipses last long enough for leisurely viewing. There’s time to make coffee and take pictures, even with a simple amateur camera.

The rising dawn won out, and the darkened moon, in the last minutes of totality, faded faster than it set.


Fading bright to dim
Now engulfed in Earth’s shadow
Blushing as you set

Another Successful Science Olympiad – We Play Nerdy #science #citizenscientist #nerdgirl #nerdboy #STEM #education

Science Olympiad at WNMU

Crush-testing a tower

Science Olympiad regional at Western New Mexico University is complete and the awards will be handed out shortly at the closing ceremony. I coordinated a middle school event this year, and there was also a high school division. We had great participation from area schools and fine weather.

Science Olympiad at WNMU

Roller coaster marbles

Congratulations to all the teachers who’ve been coaching their teams for months, to everyone who had to catch a school bus at 5 am to arrive on time, and especially to the competitors. Whether these kids pusue a career in science and technology or not, they’ll be better informed citzens for their interest and knowledge of science and, I think, more interesting people.

Revealed – Truth Is, Zebras Don’t Have Stripes on Skin – is that Weird or Not? #nature #biology #animals #genetics


Taken by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

This may not be the most important piece of news, but zebras are solid black under their striped coat.

 Skin color and hair color are controlled by different genes, hormones, and other factors, says Barsh, who studies the genetics of animal color patterns… citing domestic cats, domestic dogs, horses, zebras, and cheetahs as examples. nationalgeographic

I know that’s true with my llamas. Now, tell the truth. You’re about to go brush the hair backwards on your dog or cat to check, aren’t you? Go ahead! Be a citizen scientist.

Scientific Discovery in Bathtub #science #beetle #bugs #nature

If you’d love to make a scientific discovery, it pays to keep your eyes open.

In 1984, a couple outside of Salem, Oregon, discovered tiny beetles floating in the [bathtub]


Great Diving Beetle, free-swimming and a giant by comparison

water… a species completely new to science.

It also pays to remember Isaac Asimov’s words that “the most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not, ‘Eureka! I’ve found it,’ but, ‘That’s funny!'”

After sending a sample to Oregon State University the couple cleaned the beetles out of their well with chlorine, and I can’t blame them. But Oregon State entomologist Richard Van Driesche read about the beetles and wanted to find more. His parents’ farm is near Salem and when he checked their well water filter, he found several deceased beetles that yielded usable DNA. Oddly enough, the closest relatives to Oregon’s beetles live in a Texas aquifer – a long way for a tiny diving beetle that spends its entire life underground. I’ve seen no word on what they eat down there.

It’s a Scottish Loch – it’s a monster – no, not that one #monster #Scotland #fossil #biology

I understand why we hate to say such a creature no longer swims in Earth’s waters.

Scientists have unveiled a monster that would make Nessie blush: a 13-foot-long reptile that

Various ichthyosaurs

Various ichthyosaurs

ruled the seas 170 million years ago… the Storr Lochs Monster.”

The ichthyosaur was a predator, a fast marine reptilian that excites our imaginations – and hopes. Sort of a Jurassic dolphin, though not a mammal. Suppose you could discover such a creature – even as a fossil.

An amateur fossil collector … noticed something strange jutting out of the rocks: strings of vertebrae that looked like stacks of chocolate-brown ashtrays.”

Sadly the discoverer died before the fossil was extracted from the very-hard rock matrix that held it. I wonder what he saw when he closed his eyes and imagined his fossil swimming through ancient seas?

I usually think of the cryptid Nessie as more of a serpent – long and thin – that decades of searching has failed to find. Better a fossil in the hand.

Thanks to

Mars-ward Ho #space #science #explore #Mars #tech @MarsOneProject #SpaceX

in the 1990s, Biosphere 2 studied a closed system similar to what Mars colonists may need to create

in the 1990s, Biosphere 2 studied a closed system similar to what Mars colonists may need to create

Orbiting the planet,
above Viking’s bones,
Odyssey’s a switchboard
that seeks new landing zones.
Global Mars Surveyor
measures gravity,
Magnetosphere, minerals,
and topography.
MAVEN and Mangalyaan
sniff at the Martian air,

Japan will gather samples
and bring them back from there.
Joining Opportunity
in studying the rocks,
Rover Curiosity
seeks life’s building blocks.

UAE will gather data
on the frigid dry climate.
China’s rover should be very good
at biotech.

Yup, that's me at Biosphere 2

Yup, that’s me at Biosphere 2

Sands of a planet solely occupied
by robots,
Soon will carry boot-prints from
eager astronauts.
Far beyond horizons
where ancestors have roamed,
Mars One and SpaceX
want to claim Mars as a home.

By Kate Rauner

The list of missions to Mars – failed and successful – is long, but the list of planned missions is growing longer. Thanks to for the update. You can visit Biosphere 2 in Arizona where environmental studies are ongoing.

Visit Mars yourself, in my science fiction series On Mars.

On Mars 3 covers over planet (298x300)