Qi Gong, again.

James Randi --- Wizard (randi-hotline@ssr.com)
Thu, 18 Apr 1996 03:02:48 -0400

HOW OLD AND SIMPLE CAN A MIRACLE GET?

A couple of years back, I reported on a demonstration given at the
National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., in which the
ancient Chinese art of Qi Gong was offered to a rapt audience. Among
several simple conjuring/carnival tricks shown to establish the
magical nature of this claimed healing modality, was one in which a
pencil was held horizontally at its tips by a spectator, and a Qi Gong
master brought down the edge of a longitudinally-folded dollar bill
across the pencil, breaking it. This trick brought the house down,
and the Qi Gong master's powers were established.

Last week I received a letter from a professor at a (state of)
Washington university, describing just such a trick being done in
Xian, China, by a "Chinese medical doctor" who used a plastic
chopstick rather than a pencil. The professor mentioned "the physics
of breaking a chopstick with the edge of a dollar bill" and "estimates
of speed of impact and inherent strength of the chopstick material."
He ended with the question: "How would an expert iconoclast such as
you interpret this event?"

Without much difficulty. I've sent off to the professor three xeroxes
from kids' magic books I have here, each explaining the trick. There
are many, many more.

The professor also described the medical treatment of a woman in his
group, by the Chinese doctor. She had a sore back, and doubtless
impressed by the miracle she'd seen, she submitted to the hands of the
doctor.

Now, lest you think that the professor is devoid of common sense, let
me quote from his letter:

Perhaps what broke the chopstick was a finger
extended away from the dollar bill as it approached
the chopstick.

You got it, professor! But if it temporarily fooled you, don't be embarrassed.
It's a good trick -- but it ain't Qi Gong. Or, maybe it is. In fact, I've
never seen any Qi Gong demo that weasn't a simple trick.... Could it be that
it's all a farce?

As for the woman who underwent the treatment by this master of Qi
Gong, the professor reported that

....He pounded the woman for awhile, causing
additional pain but no long term benefit or harm.

I'm sure we're all happy that he didn't hit her back with a dollar
bill....

James Randi

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