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reader comments: DKL LifeGuard

19 Jan 2000 
Great website! I just have a couple of comments about the DKL "Life Detector." I recently read Rainbow Six, and thought something did not sound right about the device that they were describing in the book. I happened to run across your entry on it a few days later and started doing a little reading. Below is a quote from DKL's web site-:

A government facility conducted a test of the DKL LifeGuard (tm) Model 2.0 in March of 1998. The data, when evaluated by two different independent scientific agencies clearly showed that LifeGuard (tm) was able to detect the presence of a living person in a general direction 72% of the time. A statistical analysis showed that the operator's chance of making a correct detection was over 90%.

The test referred to is not mentioned, but the Sandia test was conducted in March of 1998. I am very curious what "two different independent scientific agencies" determined that the operator could make a detection 90% of the time based on the data from the Sandia test. Unless they are referring to a different test, this is a blatant misrepresentation on DLK's part. Nowhere on their web site do they give any information about this government test, or identify the "two different independent scientific agencies." It would be nice if they had a link to the Sandia results. But that might lead to critical thinking on their prospective customer's parts, which would probably hurt their sales. The Sandia Labs report sums it up as far as I'm concerned. If I'm ever trapped in rubble, I hope that my would be rescuers are not using one of these pseudo-scientific magic wands. The possibility that critical decisions could be made with this thing, such as to use bulldozers to remove rubble where no survivors are "detected", is frightening. Thanks for this great resource.
Patrick Smyrl 
Austin, TX


07 May 1999
I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you that you're doing a great job discrediting yourself when talking about DKL. That web page of yours is worth its weight in gold because when they have to defend their patents from competition and technology robbers in a court of law, they can show that they were first by showing your web page. Have a nice day!

Prof. Marco Beriolle

reply: Glad to be of service. I just hope you didn't take out a second mortgage on the house to invest in DKL. You may see the lawyers get all your money.

12 Aug 1999
I have to give credit where credit is due, you're turning into a regular Nostradamus. On your web page, you state about DKL's technology, "This application of science, if it were true, would be an achievement recognized and applauded the world over." From what I've been hearing the past couple of months, DKL's application of science has been getting recognized and applauded the world over. Even on James Randi's web page, he says the DKL LifeGuard is "endorsed and validated by scientists". Keep up the good work Bob.

Prof. Marco Beriolle

reply: I guess you could call being featured in the journal Science in an article about bogus patents getting recognition. See "'New Physics' Finds a Haven At the Patent Office" [1999;284:1252-4]. I don't hear any applause, however.

13 Aug 1999 
In his latest comment, Marco Beriolle said:

Even on James Randi's web page, he says the DKL LifeGuard is "endorsed and validated by scientists". Keep up the good work Bob.

I did a search at www.randi.org for 'DKL'. A piece entitled 'The Matter of Dowsing' came up. Contained in this article is an inset stating: Currently, several "scientific" versions of dowsing rods which purportedly contain actual electronic circuitry, are being sold to government agencies in the USA for very high prices, as much as $14,000. One such stick, known as the "DKL LifeGuard," is endorsed and validated by scientists who certainly should know better.

Not quite what Prof. Beriolle was implying.

Best wishes
Thomas Kite

I received the following three letters from Jim Bryant, Captain U.S. Navy, retired, about the DKL Lifeguard and my comments on the device.

Fri, 7 Aug 1998
You should not write off a new technology just because it does not fit into your boundary of science or sounds "too good to be true." Please look at the updated DKL home page (www.dklabs.com). There is a report of independent testing that is much more extensive than one test done by Sandia. The new FAQ page answers questions on the "antenna", bearing accuracy through barriers and provides a list of limitations that show what we are learning in this evolving technology. We would never have developed the technology of flight or ocean navigation if we allowed one test to discredit the whole technology. Many people died in "double-blind" tests to advance technologies we consider routine and safe today. Please look at how far DKL has come and then decide if you should continue list the DKL LifeGuard on your site. Do you really want to be a "world is still flat" kind of skeptic?

Sat, 8 Aug 1998
In the articles about the DKL LifeGuard one has to wonder who is really putting out the Media Bunk. Sandia did one test, where they say it failed, and then spends more money and effort making press releases than it did in testing. An independent testing organization now has done many tests that show it works and accurately describes the limitations. Why didn't Sandia complete a real testing program on this new technology? Sandia's agenda is the real story. Why discredit a new technology in one test? Fulton's steamboat blew up the first time, many airplanes crashed and the technology was not discarded. Look at www.dklabs.com and see if the FAQs make more sense than Sandia's press releases and their one failed test. Why did not Sandia allow DKL to demonstrate what the LifeGuard could do and why did Sandia not report the test they observed that was 100% accurate. This test shows the human waveform on a computer and is described on the DKL website.

Sat, 8 Aug 1998
Over the last few days I posted several items about the DKL Lifeguard on your site. I enjoy your site and agree with most of your reasoning, bigfoot, ghosts, UFOs, etc. These are things that people like to believe. The DKL Lifeguard is not in this category, but why Sandia would go to such efforts to discredit it are. If you look at the DKL site www.dklabs.com you can see proof that the technology works, but it also has problems. A critical thinker would have to wonder why a national lab would try to discredit DKL instead of trying to help. I'm a retired Navy Captain and an investor in DKL. I work with DKL in operational testing. Look at my personal site  and check me out. A critical thinker would find it hard to believe I'm involved in fraud.

Please let me know what you think.
Jim Bryant

reply: Alright, Jim, I'll let you know what I think. Let's start with the Sandia Lab's study and report. The protocol for the test was agreed to by the DKL representative who acted as the operator during the test. The report issued by Sandia did mention the test when the operator scored was "100% accurate" (ten correct identifications out of ten tries), but that was only when the operator knew beforehand where the targets were. When the operator did not know where the target was, he scored 6 out of 25 when chance was 1 in 5.

Comparing Fulton's steamboat, new airplanes that crash, etc., to the failure of the DKL Lifeguard is a false analogy. The technology, whatever it might be, that allegedly drives the Lifeguard, was not tested. The device marketed by DKL was tested and it failed to operate as claimed. The device was not broken or damaged in any way, but was in perfect working order according to the DKL representative who acted as operator during the test. DKL may be on its way to applying a new technology in a useful device, but the LifeGuard tested by Sandia Labs is not it.

I have looked at the new studies posted on the DKL web site and must say that I am not as impressed by them as you are. One test was done by LAW, "the U.S. arm of LAWGIBB Group," which describes itself as a business management consulting firm that "is committed to delivering consistently superior service that adds clear business value for clients of all sizes, in all industries." LAW is hardly an independent scientific testing laboratory. Their "report" clearly indicates that scientific testing is not something they do for a living. In any case, here is their reported finding:

In a series of tests that simulate real world conditions LAW found that in the hands of a fully trained operator the DKL LifeGuard Models 1.0 and 2.0 can detect human, non-uniform electrical fields through barriers with approximately 80 to 100 percent reliability. The two LifeGuard models successfully detected both moving and stationary human electrical fields through barriers that included wood, dirt, metal, and concrete.

Our testing found the DKL LifeGuard does not detect dogs or cats, nor does it detect people who are deceased.

Nowhere in their report do they give the protocols used in testing the DKL devices. Instead, the report mentions events as if they were anecdotes, not data from a scientific test.

The DKL LifeGuard Model 1.0 detected and tracked a human a distance of 500-feet behind an earthen berm approximately 140-feet wide and 30-feet high. A person in a car was detected both moving and stationary along a 1/2 mile road on the opposite side of an approximately 200-foot wide stretch of forest. The DKL LifeGuard operator was standing approximately 120 feet from the edge of the forest.

A 100 percent accuracy was achieved in 25 tests through a 1.75-inch thick solid wooden door.

There is one conclusion of the report, however, that should be noted:

LAW agrees with DKL that the instruments get the best results with a trained, skilled and experienced operator. This was demonstrated in tests which an operator who had not completed the minimum training recommended by DKL achieved 40 percent success while a fully trained operator achieved 80 percent success on the same tests. Operation of the LifeGuard appears consistent with other precision instruments in that operators can improve with training and experience, but not all can become experts.

This claim is interesting, because the second test touted by DKL as proving their device works, did not use a trained operator at all.

The second test was done by Dr. Joseph P. Dougherty of Advanced Materials Technology (not to be confused with Advanced Materials Technologies, Inc., of the gas turbine industry). Dr. Doughterty is on the faculty at Penn State's Center for Dielectric Studies. One wonders why the Lifeguard was not tested by the Center for Dielectric Studies, a joint effort of the National Science Foundation and Pennsylvania State University. In any case, Dr. Dougherty certainly has the credentials to test the device.

However, Dougherty's test involved no operator and tested the LifeGuard "as an autonomous device."

The standard commercial LifeGuard Model 2.0 was mounted on a tripod and an electrical jack through the enclosure connected an output from internal circuits to an analog to digital converter input connected to a computer. The LifeGuard Model 2.0 circuits, enabled the device to function as a very effective charge perturbation sensor which could detect the motion of test subjects even through walls and doors.

A double-blind protocol was used where the human target assistant would randomly (based on a coin flip) go to one of two pre-selected locations either within the range of the sensor or outside the range of the sensor. The DKL LifeGuard Model 2.0 performed flawlessly, accurately detecting the correct position of the human target 25 out of 25 times.

In short, he tested the device as a motion detector, not as a human heartbeat detector. He did not test dogs and cats, to see if the device could tell the difference between them and humans. What Dr. Dougherty showed was that the LifeGuard can be used as a motion detector, but that is not what it is advertised to be. Furthermore, the test range was an astounding two to three feet!

The tripod was placed approximately one foot from a plasterboard wall which had a standard hollow core wooden office door immediately adjacent to the tripod.

Based on the coin flip, the target subject would then go to one of two pre-selected locations either within the range of the sensor or outside the range of the sensor. The in-range location was approximately 2 to 3 feet from the sensor which was located facing the other side of the wall. The out-of range position was approximately 45 feet away from the location of the "DKL LifeGuard Model 2.0".

When the test subject went to the in-range position, she would walk up to a marked line in the room, turn around, and record the data. After waiting 30 seconds, she would return to the neutral position from either the in-range or the out-of-range position and remain there until the next coin flip which occurred at the beginning of each new minute.

The movement of the test subject was monitored by a time-marked video camera. The DKL people, the test supervisor, myself and the test subject all synchronized our watches to the time of the video camera before the test began. The motion of the target, as detected by the DKL LifeGuard Model 2.0 circuit, was displayed on the computer screen as a low frequency signal in a strip chart recording format. An example of the typical voltage versus time output signal is attached. The data from this test were recorded in the DKL computer as "Test File 26". Data were recorded for the 25 trials, determining whether the sensor output detected the test human target either inside or outside the range of sensitivity. After the test was over, the data on the supervisor's sheet were compared to the test subject's data sheet to determine whether the LifeGuard Model 2.0 being used as an autonomous device had correctly determined the human target subject's location for these test conditions.

What Doughterty tested was not what Sandia Labs tested, nor is motion detection a new and exciting technology that will allow rescuers to find motionless people buried in rubble. This new test shows that the DKL can detect motion through a door when the subject is about two feet from the door. At $6,000 to $14,000 a unit, that seems a bit expensive. Apparently, DKL thinks that studies such as these give their company and their product credibility.

Captain Bryant's reply:

9 Aug 1998
Doctor, to be a critical thinker you first need to be unbiased and to get the facts straight.

reply: Well, we agree on one thing, at least.

The Sandia protocol was not agreed to by the DKL representative. DKL proposed changes to the Sandia test protocol were denied. The test was conducted under protest because they were going to use unskilled operators if our operator did not do the test. We could have done much better if the DKL operator had been allowed to get closer to the plastic crates.

reply: We'll have to take your word for it. In any case, the Sandia test seems to me to have been adequately and fairly designed. Your man did pretty well (ten out of ten) when he knew where the target was. I don't doubt he could have done better had he been allowed to get closer to the crates. This issue is discussed in the Sandia report ("Double-Blind Evaluation of the DKL LifeGuard Model 2," report # SAND98-0977, April 1998, p. 5). The report notes that the product literature for the Model 2 states that its range is "Selectable 0-10 meters or 0-20 meters" and that this differs from the range description on page 12 of the Operator's Manual, which says that "Most operators can get maximum range in open air past 20 meters using a walk-by and about 30 meters using a scan." The scan method was the method used in the tests. Sandia used 50 feet (15.24 meters) as the distance from the operator to the crates. This seems fair to me given the claims made by DKL in their literature. The report states: "A shorter distance could have been used but at the risk of the Test Operator seeing or hearing something that might indicate the location of the Test Target." That seems reasonable to me.

A close reading of the Law Engineering and Environmental Services executive summary and the FAQs point out the limitations of LifeGuard that would make the type of test designed by Sandia difficult. DKL was not allowed to help design the tests. When the operator requested to change instruments because of saturation, described in the executive summary and FAQs, he was not allowed.

reply: I don't know about "saturation," but the Sandia report does note that the DKL operator complained that "static charge was causing a 'residual' signal leading to false indications on crates that had been formerly occupied." The operator also complained that "the 'sharp edges' of the crates were distorting the field and were interfering with detection." The Sandia report notes that your published capabilities don't indicate these kinds of problems and include such statements as "Penetrates all forms of camouflaging" and "no known countermeasures."

Your operator also complained that the targets were too low  (they were crouching down in the crates) and "was causing the field to spread and reducing the horizontal accuracy of the device." Sandia claims that there is no mention of this "field spreading effect" in your literature.

Finally, Sandia notes that DKL representatives argued that their operator should be given credit for adjacencies, (i.e., when the actual crate containing a human presence was next to the one identified by the operator). Yet, the DKL literature claims that the device has an accuracy of ± 5° @ 20 meters and the test layout provided over 30° of angular separation. Even so, if adjacencies were counted as hits, the operator would have gotten 17 out of 25 correct, rather than 6. Sandia notes: "Given completely random chance and the actual sequence of locations used in placing the Test Target in crates, 17 or more combined hits and adjacencies can be shown to occur with probability of 0.092. Therefore, the results are still not inconsistent with random chance."

The test that was not reported by Sandia was the test described by Dr. Doughtery, not the warm up exercise described in the Sandia report. This same test was demonstrated to Sandia and yet you see no report of it. To better understand this test you need to look here.Your question on detection of animals is documented there and you will learn why it is not a motion detector.

reply: The test you mention demonstrated that the DKL device positioned within one foot of a door can detect a human moving within two feet of the other side of a door. I now understand that the device is not a motion detector but a "human voltage surge detector." I must say, though, after looking at the graphs and reading the gobbledygook, I can understand why only a trained operator could effectively use this device. I wonder, though, how many Ph.D.s in electronic engineering are going to be willing to watch voltage surge information to tell them whether there is a person three feet away.

You incorrectly described the company that did the independent testing of LifeGuard as only a business management consulting firm. The report states it was done by Law Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc. and scientific testing is something they do for a living. The website http://www.usa-law clearly shows they do "innovative testing."

The Law report is clearly labeled as an executive summary, not the complete report. The phone number to request the complete report is provided at the end of the summary. If you want to read the test protocols and look at the data tables get a complete copy of the report.

You incorrectly state that one test was done by Law when it is obvious that many tests were done. How does a critical thinker get so many facts wrong?

reply: I don't say LAW is "only" a business management consulting firm; I say they describe themselves as a business management consulting firm, which they do. Yes, they do testing. But they are not an independent testing lab. They are in the business of helping firms like DKL market and sell their product.

They do label their report an "executive summary," whatever that is. At the very least, this summary should have stated how the tests were done.

The statement "one test was done by LAW" is ambiguous, I admit. I did not mean they conducted a single trial. I meant that DKL posted two new studies to support their product, one was done by LAW and the other by Dr. Dougherty. (You might note that later I write that "The second test was done by Dr. Joseph P. Dougherty....")

You are strangely silent about using one test to disprove a new technology. No critical thinker would use one test to prove or discredit a new technology. A critical thinker would look at a whole testing program and that is what Law Engineering and Environmental Services did. You will note there are some tests that did not go well in this testing program and the reasons are documented.

reply: Have you ever heard of the Michelson-Morley experiment? Granted, that wasn't used to test a new technology, but single tests, under certain conditions, can be quite reasonable. How many tests under controlled conditions should a dowser, an aura reader, a graphologist, a biorhythm reader, an astrologer, etc., be given before we accept that they can't do what they think they can do? If the test is done properly, I should think one test would be sufficient.

Again, I reiterate that Sandia did not test a technology. They tested some published claims made by DKL about their LifeGuard. That is all.

Captain Bryant's second reply:

12 Aug 1998
Doctor, your last statement cuts to the heart of the matter. I will quote it, "Again, I reiterate that Sandia did not test a technology. They tested some published claims made by DKL about their LifeGuard." The Sandia test did discredit the technology and your site assisted in this effort. This test was widely distributed by Sandia and resulted in stopping most government sales of LifeGuard and in canceling a government contract to cooperate in developing this technology. The State Department was one of those interested in purchasing LifeGuard for embassy security. I wonder if lives could have been saved in the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Africa if Sandia had cooperated on a program to test, evaluate and develop LifeGuard.

A LifeGuard operator does not fall in the same category as a biorhythm reader, dowser, aura reader, astrologer, etc. If these people even use devices, are they patented and endorsed by a rigorous product-testing program? LifeGuard is a patented electronic device that requires training, experience and skill to work effectively. An example of the category of people that use LifeGuard is a SWAT team in Los Angeles.

Sandia made up a test based on promotional literature. You test a new technology by working with the inventor and contractor. Test design should be cooperative, like what is described in the Michelson-Morely experiment that you mentioned in your last reply. Sandia gave DKL an ultimatum to do this one test their way or they would use unskilled operators.

Doctor, would DKL still be on your site if the Sandia test had passed? In every reply you use the Sandia test to support your conclusions. A critical thinker would not use a single flawed test to drive his or her reasoning when confronted with many tests that show it works. A critical thinker would be eager to read the test protocols and review the data to see what was different. Yet, you appear to have your mind made up about LifeGuard and refuse to change it.

You now admit that Law Engineering and Environmental Services is in the business of new product testing. Is this not the same as an independent laboratory? Does that mean this well established and large corporation would produce biased tests of new products or should we assume that they are good at what they do?

This is what Law says about their capabilities in this area on their website (http://law-sa.com/integrated/prodtest.html): Our broad product testing experience literally covers products from A to Z….from atomic reactor valves to zippers….involving materials from advanced composites to zinc plating. LAW has measured the stress on a 10-story roller coaster and on a brain catheter the size of a human hair. Our lab professionals are experts in designing appropriate ways to test the performance of virtually any product.

A critical thinker would surmise that Law's testing meets strict standards to remain creditable, competitive and therefore stay in business. Testing protocols exist for all their routine tests, but the LifeGuard is a new and unique technology. DKL worked with Law engineers to develop a testing program, which is what we thought Sandia was going to do. I have mentioned before some of these tests did not have good results and are explained in the complete report.

Sandia touts these capabilities on its website: During its more than 40 years of existence, Sandia has maintained an abiding commitment to technical and scientific excellence in meeting the Department of Energy's and the nation's needs. Sandia's industrial management heritage brings to the Laboratories an emphasis on developing theoretical concepts into useful solutions. The ability to transform knowledge from research laboratory to factory floor, from vision to application, is a Sandia strength.

A critical thinker should question why Sandia would fail to do what they advertise and force DKL to go to Law Engineering and Environmental Services to get a fair test?

Doctor, please remove the DKL LifeGuard from you site, at least until you have to time to get and review a complete copy of the report.

reply: We're starting to get repetitious, Captain. I think I have given you more than an ample opportunity to present your case against Sandia and for DKL. You have given me a great deal of advice on critical thinking. I think it only fair that I give you a bit of advice on civics, the first amendment, free speech, liberty and the American way. In America, we don't tell our critics to remove their opinions. If your product is as good as you say it is, prove it with scientific studies that are acceptable to unbiased persons. Make your arguments. But don't tell critics to shut up. I think we have both made our cases for our positions and we should have faith in the fairness and intelligence of our readers to decide who has made the better argument.

13 Aug
Bob, you shut down the debate just when it started to get interesting. I  really wanted to know if there is a patented biorhythm or aurora reading machine out there that has passed a product-testing program. It is your site so I guess you can do what you want, but I was not trying to interfere with your free speech, just get you to fairly evaluate the Law Report.

I apologize for lecturing you on critical thinking, but it seems you are getting defensive and do not want to see new information. I guess being a  nuke attack sub commander during the Cold War and negotiating with the Russians/Israelis/Arabs has made me a little too confrontational at times. My arguments are probably a little too harsh for academia, I apologize again. I do want to carry on the debate, because I know you are basically reasonable. I know you hate to see people get away producing fraudulent products and myths that the masses hold as ground truth. DKL does not want to be included in this category.

The DKL Board of Directors has followed our Internet discussion with great interest. Your last terse reply was disappointing, especially after I told them you were a reasonable man and the debate seemed somewhat fair. I  pointed out the rest of your site deals with things we all know deserves to be criticized. They are not convinced that you have an open mind about DKL.

I went by the DKL offices on Wednesday and I learned that you requested a copy of the Law Report by email. The person who handles this was out of  town, which is why you have not gotten a reply. I was given an original version of this report and I can send you a copy only after you remove everything about DKL from your website. After you read the report and ask questions you can say what you want about DKL. I understand this condition is probably not going to work with your current attitude, but a number of people following our debate saw you as being closed minded. If you do remove DKL from your site as a sign that you will give the Law Report a fair evaluation I will also go over the Sandia Report with you and rebut it line by line. I will also offer to let you talk to our chief scientist.

DKL's Chief Scientist, Dr. George Johnson, has a Ph.D. in solid state physics from Cornell. He has done extensive research into this science and helped develop, test and improve this product. In his 30 year career in Du Pont and in private consulting he has done the same with many other technologies and products. He is capable of walking you through the science and the background literature. Did you know there is a book that documents that sharks use electric field sensors to locate prey? George is close to completing a paper that mathematically proves there is enough energy from the human electric field to torque the LifeGuard. It is the typical scientific paper with pages of equations and numbers, but has passed the scrutiny of other physicists. This paper will be the latest of a series of documents that provides an acceptable working hypothesis for this technology.

I argued that you were just tired of fighting the crap that shows up every day that does not pass what I call the "common sense test" and we should let you have a copy if you agreed to give it a fair evaluation. I was not able to overcome the opposition.
Jim Bryant

reply: It is now September 23, 1998, and I still have not received a reply from DKL, much less a copy of the LAW study. I have contacted the main office of LAWGibb and requested a copy from them. The Atlanta office had not even heard of the study, and so far I have not received responses to my e-mails to LAW regarding this study. I can only conclude that DKL will not give me a copy of the study because the DKL people are afraid I will be fair. If this study were truly sound, I would bet the house that the full report would be up in a flash at DKL's website.

update: It is now November 27, 2007, and I still have not received a reply from DKL. And I never received an apology from Jim Bryant. Perhaps he was too embarrassed to admit that despite his intelligence, experience, and knowledge, he was duped.

update: The National Institute of Justice's National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center commissioned a detailed study of the DKL Lifeguard devices in October 1998, and the results are now (February 1999) available on the Web. The scope of the examination leaves no doubt as to the conclusions, and the details are fascinating. The "circuitry" of the supposed dielectric detector is a sham -- it is a simple electronic LRC (inductor-resistor-capacitor) circuit on a breadboard.   However, it can't even function as an electronic circuit -- it's an open circuit! See http://www.pitt.edu/~kconover/dkl.htm

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