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January 29, 2014

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‘Chinese Rain Man’ mystifies local experts

Local experts have said it remains a mystery how Zhou Wei, dubbed the “Chinese Rain Man,” developed his amazing mathematical prowess which was highlighted  in a TV show.

In a program “The Brain,” hosted by Jiangsu Satellite TV earlier this month, 23-year-old Zhou, who is mentally challenged, dazzled television audiences by slowly but composedly writing down the answer to the question 13th power of 6 — 13,060,694,016 — in a minute.

In the same show, Zhou was given other tougher mathematics questions, such as the 14th root of a 16-digit number. The answers were very close.

Netizens and media have since dubbed Zhou the “Chinese Rain Man” for his mathematical ability and battling language and communication impairment.

Fang Zhouzi, a controversial blogger, questioned Zhou’s ability by claiming that he had memorized the answers provided by the TV station and was cheating the audience. However, local experts have dismissed Fang’s claim, saying Zhou does have an extraordinary ability to calculate numbers.

Last week, Xu Zhenli, a researcher at the Department of Mathematics at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and  Li Xianchun, associate professor at the School of Psychology and Cognitive Science of East China Normal University, conducted a series of tests on Zhou by asking him to do calculations including the multiplication of two four-digit numbers, and the root of a 12-digit number, Shanghai Morning Post reported.

“Judging from the tests, Zhou Wei was indeed capable of solving these equations,” Li said.

“He’s fast in calculation, which is unusual and beyond normal capabilities.

“He can’t explain how he did it, and neither can we. I’m afraid we need to approach the question from a neurosciences angle,” he said.

Professor Li Weidong, a scholar from the Bio-X Center at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, had interacted with Zhou twice during the recording of the TV show in Nanjing.

“Zhou is a very special case and will be of great value to our study of neurobiology and genetics,” Li Weidong told Shanghai Daily. “He also has several brothers and sisters in his family, so we can get more genetic samples for scientific research.”

He said though mathematical ability can be improved with intensive training, it was not the reason for Zhou’s talent because he had only attended primary school for five years.

“How he did it is still a mystery, but scientists will learn more when his language and communication abilities are developed one day,” he said.

Zhou hails from Wutai County in north China’s Shanxi Province. He has only spent five years in school and has had no other formal education.

Zhou is capable of communicating with people, but has problems expressing himself clearly. He likes staring at the sun apart from doing calculations during his leisure time, Shanghai Morning Post reported.



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