Xeno's strange news awards blog.
A skeptic of traditional Chinese medicine is challenging practitioners of the age-old craft to prove themselves by putting his own money on the line. One has accepted the challenge. At stake is the claim that practitioners can discern whether a woman is pregnant by her pulse.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a point of contention in China. Although the government is keen to promote its use in the clinic and, in modernized form, as part of drug discovery, some feel that much of it is unproven and that the government is throwing its money away. There have also been high-profile cases of fraud linked to such research, and the practice is criticized for its dependence on endangered species such as the Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica).
Ah Bao, the online nickname of a burn-care doctor at Beijing Jishuitan hospital, has been an adamant critic of TCM on Chinese social media, often referring to it as “fake”. He issued the challenge on 13 September, and Zhen Yang, a practitioner at the Beijing University of Traditional Medicine, took him up on it.
Ah Bao put up 50,000 yuan (more than US$8,000), and at his urging others have donated more than 50,000 yuan, making the prize worth more than 100,000 yuan total. Ah Bao turned down Nature‘s request to be interviewed, saying that he has been overwhelmed by media attention.
Yang will have to assess with 80% accuracy whether women are pregnant. The two are reportedly working out the terms of the contest, with a tentative set-up reportedly involving 32 women who would be separated by a screen from Yang.
Having 80% accuracy with 32 attempts would be getting at least 25 correct. I’m very curious to see how this goes. Rather than subtle energies, there is a basic difference that might be observed: A typical resting heart rate for a woman is 75 beats per minute and it would be faster, like 80, for a resting pregnant woman. So if the TCM doctor selects any woman over 79 BPM, would that net 80% correct choices? It might, depending on the variability. There may be considerable haggling over the pool having other conditions, their fitness, etc.