Secrets of skinwalker ranch - simple debunk of magnetic deviation

Toadyuk

New Member
I have a declared interest in the individual called Travis Taylor who is presented as a credible scientist with a PhD on the history channel. They call him make a scientist, team leader and also a reliable person who can interpret and inform the public about the strange events seeming to occur on the ranch.

I feel that his pronouncements, observations and descriptions are unscientific at best and often misleading and potentially ill informed or worse. He makes statements that are unfounded and fails to present any consistent evidence to back these up. Due to thread rules I will focus on a specific example and show how I think it is flawed.

I think that he tends to quickly reach for paranormal, abnormal or pseudoscience explanations without using any scientific thinking, critical thinking or logic as my example will show below.

Because he is a TV “scientist” and makes such bold claims - he is now a rising star and “poster boy“ for the UFO and woo fields. I am keen to provide good and reasoned evidence to help inform anyone seeking to debate him.

My hope is that I can with others document via series of threads some good counter arguments to his pronouncements, which someone on YouTube or in an interview can put to him directly to see his response. I wish to avoid mudslinging, so have picked my words carefully and focus on facts and evidence with pictures.
This is my first reply to one of Taylor's observations from “secrets of skinwalker ranch series 2” - and I will present my evidence, show my arguments and then would love to hear any counter explanation.

So here goes;
the episode clip is on youtube and just a few mins, can be seen here; Source: https://youtu.be/nDjQEbjwqLo


Summary;
the team are on the porch of ranch 1 and note some cattle stampeding. They go to investigate and stand looking at the cattle. They say they have never seen the cattle act like this before. They then notice a localised magnetic anomaly that has inverted north and south within their locality. This is shown on an iPhone compass as well as a traditional compass. Travis Taylor explains that this is unprecedented, cannot be explained by him, he has no natural explanation for this and feels it is linked to the mystery that is skinwalker ranch.

Spoiler;
I have an explanation, it’s very simple. You should never take a compass reading beside or near to a long linear iron object, be that a fence or wires. This is basic physics and taught to every person who ever uses a compass. It should certainly be known to a scientist and even if for some reason this isn’t known, the application of the scientific method should be to seek common explanations and ten mins of critical thinking would reveal the answer.

here the team notices the stampede

E31E5F38-FFA5-4867-8940-B2D444958AF0.png

then they walk to the fence
F70A2995-5A50-411F-A287-5311EFFD5AC9.jpeg

travis then takes his readings and informs everyone that "due West is due North right now"
790C5368-7300-452E-9F86-32F60145107F.png

we then see this “evidence” on his iphone
F1FD8D52-E028-45E8-978F-FA2A12FCE570.png

we then see Dragon take the same reading
E1F8D2A0-C701-4573-AAA2-9EA408C79071.png

with the same result on his analog “old skool” compass
0D526679-54D9-438D-8CE9-93C94C4D7984.png

Comments;
it should be obvious to anyone reading this that the explanation is obvious, however if we wish to try and give Travis the benefit of the doubt should he not have at least tried to replicate the tests in the localised area !

he should have taken readings every 1m or so in various directions and when that showed the inversion tailing off as they move away from the fence, he would then have understood the results.

he also should have taken readings the next day and again, he would have seen the supposed anomaly always present at that location, at which point any scientist would start to generate conjectures as to why this should be. Of course any scientist with even basic training would quickly if not immediately identify the fact that a very large ferrous object is located next to the anomaly and may actually be the cause ?

I feel that I am being somewhat lenient in the above, to someone who professes that they are a scientist. I would dearly like to see someone put the above argument to Travis and see his response.

Why did he decide on TV to clearly make bold statements about two point observations made in the field and from those two samples postulate the fact that:
1. He has no scientific or natural explanation
2. That weird anomalies are occurring on the ranch
3. That whatever is occurring is all linked

I don’t mind people having all sorts of views, opinions and ideas - but I do mind those who claim it is science when it bears no resemblance to the method.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Oh wait, I do, on my back gate. Looks like the same type of steel tube.



Iphone compass should be about 140° perpendicular to the gate, but goes to around 175° (35° deviation)
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
I have an explanation, it’s very simple. You should never take a compass reading beside or near to a long linear iron object, be that a fence or wires.
That was my immediate thought when I saw the video clip. I know that when using magnetometers to find underground features, the operators wear no metal zippers or buttons or shoe fittings. The question remains, was their confusion about the readings based on ignorance, or was it just showmanship? I wouldn't expect them ALL to be ignorant.
 

Toadyuk

New Member
Oh wait, I do, on my back gate. Looks like the same type of steel tube.



Iphone compass should be about 140° perpendicular to the gate, but goes to around 175° (35° deviation)
Mick,
I made an error in my write-up.
Travis does call it an inversion but the actual deviation they see appears to be 90degrees.

When I was taught this at school, I was told the longer the fence, the higher the deviation.

I would suggest your gate may not have the same profile as the huge cattle fence. However a 35 degree deviation and 90 degree deviation are close enough to assign SOME deviation as being due to the fence.

It surprises me more people are not aware of this, hence I feel I might have been a bit hard on Travis. Maybe what I assumed is common knowledge is more specialised.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Travis does call it an inversion
Does he? Where? I watched the video and I don't recall that. He says 90°

Dragon say 190° (essentially 180) with his "old-school" compass.

2022-07-19_15-00-07.jpg

He's not standing particularly close to the fence though.

2022-07-19_15-01-00.jpg

I don't think we can really finger the fence conclusively unless that can be replicated. My experiments with the gate showed a significant effect withing a few inches, but not much a foot or more away. I understand that it's not that long (8'), but it's the best example we have so far.

Dragon's full reversal sounds to me like an actual polarity reversal of the compass, which can happen if they briefly come into close proximity with a strong magnet - like in a phone case or Apple Watch, a speaker, or some tool.

Article:
The guilty culprit seems to be anything with a speaker system in it. Additionally some phone cases have a small magnet in that puts the phone into a hibernate mode, that too will change needle polarity. An experiment of stroking one of these devices on a compass reversed the polarity after just a few minutes. It is not hard to envisage this happening quite by accident with a phone and compass lying together in the lid of a rucksack or jacket pocket on a days walk.


There the obvious follow-up would be to see the reversal matches another compass.
 

jackfrostvc

Senior Member
I think there should be a general Skinwalker ranch debunk thread. Because there's probably a number of things to be discussed every show
 

Hougenai

New Member
Mick,
I made an error in my write-up.
Travis does call it an inversion but the actual deviation they see appears to be 90degrees.

When I was taught this at school, I was told the longer the fence, the higher the deviation.

I would suggest your gate may not have the same profile as the huge cattle fence. However a 35 degree deviation and 90 degree deviation are close enough to assign SOME deviation as being due to the fence.

It surprises me more people are not aware of this, hence I feel I might have been a bit hard on Travis. Maybe what I assumed is common knowledge is more specialised.

Anyone with a boat knows to 'set' their compass aginst local deviation from iron objects on board (usually the engine block). I assume aviators do similar adjustment.
Archaeologists/geologists using magnetometry understand the effect (Ann K above). As do avid film goers or readers, where the plot involves a baddie influencing a compass by putting an iron object nearby eg C.S Forester's 'Hornblower'.
Add anyone doing a Physics GCSE (an exam syllabus taught to 14-16year olds in the UK).
Hardly arcane knowledge of some esoteric dark art, but a handy device used by a snake oil salesman in yet another work of fiction that is Skinwalker Ranch.
 

Easy Muffin

Senior Member
Anyone with a boat knows to 'set' their compass aginst local deviation from iron objects on board (usually the engine block). I assume aviators do similar adjustment.
Yes, aka 'swinging the compass'. You start your plane, taxi up to a painted compass rose on the ground, align your plane with it and adjust your compass by means of small inbuilt compensation magnets and fill in a compass card with the remaining misalignments.

a.jpg

This is a very basic thing to do and this article here says that Taylor holds a private pilot's licence. If that is true then I'd be very surprised if he wasn't familiar with this concept.

https://thecinemaholic.com/is-travi...f-skinwalker-ranch-married-does-he-have-kids/
Apart from his prolific multi-dimensional career, Taylor also has a private pilot’s license, a scuba diving certificate, and a blackbelt in martial arts.
 

jarlrmai

Senior Member
Yes, aka 'swinging the compass'. You start your plane, taxi up to a painted compass rose on the ground, align your plane with it and adjust your compass by means of small inbuilt compensation magnets and fill in a compass card with the remaining misalignments.

a.jpg

This is a very basic thing to do and this article here says that Taylor holds a private pilot's licence. If that is true then I'd be very surprised if he wasn't familiar with this concept.

https://thecinemaholic.com/is-travi...f-skinwalker-ranch-married-does-he-have-kids/
A cynical view might be that he is in fact fully aware of this and is using it intentionally.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I wandered around town today on my daily walk, and tried to replicate this on every piece of metal I could find. Fences, handrails, and even railroad tracks. I was unable to get more than about +/- 5° deviation, maybe 10°. Certainly nothing like 90°, even up close.

If I ever visit SWR, I'll try this on-site.
 

Easy Muffin

Senior Member
I wandered around town today on my daily walk, and tried to replicate this on every piece of metal I could find. Fences, handrails, and even railroad tracks. I was unable to get more than about +/- 5° deviation, maybe 10°. Certainly nothing like 90°, even up close.
I see about a 180° reversal with my phone held close to the metal balcony railing. The effect doesn't start until I'm about a foot away, though.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I see about a 180° reversal with my phone held close to the metal balcony railing. The effect doesn't start until I'm about a foot away, though.
I wonder if it needs a specific alignment. They are standing at the south fence, which runs roughly east-west, or roughly perpendicular to the earth's magnetic field.
2022-07-20_11-44-48.jpg
My heavy gauge back gate runs pretty much Northeast / Southwest.
 

Easy Muffin

Senior Member
I wonder if it needs a specific alignment. They are standing at the south fence, which runs roughly east-west, or roughly perpendicular to the earth's magnetic field.

My heavy gauge back gate runs pretty much Northeast / Southwest.
Hmm, so does my railing actually. This building kind of resembles the Great Pyramid in that it is quite closely aligned to the cardinal directions :D
 

jplaza

Member
I see about a 180° reversal with my phone held close to the metal balcony railing. The effect doesn't start until I'm about a foot away, though.
Same here.

I find the smartphone compass quite unreliable. After calibration, it seems to work just fine. But just by walking the heading is a bit unstable.

When I put it near some metal, it goes crazy (180° shift), and it doesn't get the initial reading when I walk away from the metal. I need to calibrate again.


I think the tests should be done with both the smartphone and a real compass and see how they behave in the same situation.
 

Mauro

Senior Member
An iron rail could also be conducting a stray current:

1658432589030.pnghttps://blog.nvent.com/the-basics-of-stray-current-control/

Stray currents do not come only from railways, but from any kind of earthed electrical appliance. They can be AC too and they are a common source of corrosion in metal structures which are buried or in contact with earth.

Any flowing current will also produce a magnetic field (by Ampere's law) which can easily deflect and overcome the weak natural Earth field. A current flowing through an iron fence can very well go unnoticed, because the voltage between the fence and the earth is low (they make a good contact together, the fence is 'earthed'), and so is the voltage between different parts of the hand-rail (because the fence has a low resistivity).

A nearby power line (it could also be a buried one), or a transformer, or a motor would also cause a deflection in the magnetic field, for the same reason. Another source of a local deflection of the magnetic field, without need for currents, could be a permanent magnet nearby, say a buried piece of a ferromagnetic rock (a rock containing magnetite, for istance). All these things (and more, probably) should be checked before claiming an anomaly for which there is 'no way, scientifically, to explain what'.
 
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jplaza

Member
Looking for information about how the smartphone compass works, I found this:

Measuring Earth’s Magnetic Field Using a Smartphone Magnetometer ( https://arxiv.org/pdf/1901.00857.pdf )

Magnetometers, sensors for measuring magnetic fields, have become ubiquitous in smartphones. These magnetometers are what enables the phone’s compass to function.
(...)
The magnetometers used in smartphones utilise the so-called Hall-effect to operate. This effect was first demonstrated by Edwin Hall in 1879. When a current is flowing through a thin foil of semiconductor material, a voltage difference will arise perpendicular to the direction of the current in the presence of a magnetic field perpendicular to the semiconductor foil [12]. This voltage is linearly dependent on the strength of the magnetic field. Today, the material needed to make a Hall-sensor sensitive enough to measure the strength of the earth’s magnetic field is small enough to fit inside a mobile phone. Most phones will, in fact,contain three magnetometers, one for each spatial direction.
(...)
The coordinate system of the magnetometer app is as follows: The positive x-direction is defined as pointing directly left to right in the plane of the phone screen.The y-direction also lies in this plane and is pointing directly upwards along the screen.The z-direction is perpendicular to the x-y-plane and is pointing directly out of the screen.
(...)
As mentioned in the previous section, the magnetic field strength reading of the magnetometer app is found to be quite strongly dependent on the orientation of the smartphone. This means that the magnetic field measured by the magnetometer will be the sum of the earth’s magnetic field Bearth and the constant magnetic offset Boffs in the phone:

Bmeas=Bearth+Boffs

(...)
The experiment was first performed indoors. This yielded inconsistent results, possibly due to a permanent magnetisation of the building in which the experiment was done. Iron rebars in the concrete of the building, for example, may have obtained apermanent magnetisation. The experiment was therefore moved outside.

The experiment was also first performed by attaching the phone to a camera tripod,using a clamp. The tripod allows for accurate orientation of the phone in all directions. The tripod used can be seen in Figure 1. However, the metal legs of the tripod were found to be magnetised. This magnetisation interfered with the measurements. The tripod was therefore abandoned in favour of simply orientating the phone by hand.

(...)
Students taking an experimental course on electromagnetism can, for example, use this method along with other methods for measuring the earth’s magnetic field, to check their results. The experiment also provides an opportunity for students to practice estimating uncertainties and systematic errors.

Steps should be taken to perform the experiment away from any potential sources of magnetic contamination.
Content from External Source
So, it seems the magnetometers from a smartphone are quite sensible to magnetic contamination. Also, the compass function processes the values of three magnetometers (along with the accelerometers, I guess) to obtain the orientation. The smartphone itself may have an internal magnetic field, either due to some materials, or even created by the electric currents inside the phone. Small variation of these currents may also cause variations in the internal magnetic field... I can see a few sources of systematic errors.

An smartphone compass may be an useful toy, but for the moment I don't find it reliable enough to be used as a scientific instrument. I would at least try to have access to the magnetometer readings, instead of only looking at the compass application.
 

Murray

Member
I know when I see animals running from something, my first thought is to whip out my compass, instead of, gee, I don't know, going to the area they ran from to see what's going on.
 
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