As part of the Authors@Google series, I interviewed my friend Ping Fu, a remarkable human being and an admired pioneer in 3D technology.

At the tender age of 8, Ping was ripped away from her parents and forced to fend for herself and her baby sister. She suffered years of hunger and abuse. She was gang-raped when she was only 10. As an adult, she was thrown into prison and later exiled from her homeland for documenting  rural female infanticide. She arrived in the US knowing only 3 English phrases and her first experience in America was being kidnapped.

From those horrible beginnings (and enrolling in MS studies without even knowing simple math concepts like fractions), she rose to be a successful engineer and entrepreneur. She managed the team that created NCSA Mosaic (which popularized the Internet), and she eventually became co-founder and CEO of Geomagic, a 3D technology pioneer. She was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005 and an advisor to the White House.

What most touched me about Ping’s being is how genuine and grounded she is. You might expect somebody with her life experience to either be bitter, arrogant, or both.  But instead, she is kind and modest.  She behaves like she is very ordinary, even though she is special.

In this conversation, we talked about her fascinating life and about 3D printing.

Update 2013/02/02: Controversy has developed around Ping’s book.  It started with doubts cast by Fang Zhouzi (article), many parts of which are reasonable doubts.  It is, however, based on an article containing important inaccuracies, which have since been corrected (eg that Ping was in a “labor camp” when in fact she was in an university dorm, as she clearly said in her book).  There are also parts I found strange.  For example, Mr Fang accuses Ping of being a Red Guard based on the black and white photograph on this page, he claims Ping to be wearing the Red Guard arm band, but I am looking closely at the SAME photo myself and clearly there is no arm band.  Huh?  I suspect this is caused by confusion on which kid in the photo is Ping, the caption confusingly says “in the bottom row, second from the right”, but it should be “second kid from right OR first kid from right in bottom row” (the second kid from right in bottom row who looks nothing like Ping indeed has an arm band).

Ping herself has responded in her own words (here) and I am personally satisfied with her explanation.  I have trust that folks like Mr Fang who strive to be reasonable will eventually arrive at some form of common understanding with Ping.  In general, it’s very healthy to be skeptical as long as our minds are open to all data.  It becomes very unhealthy only when the skeptics refuse to see data suggesting their own hypothesis could be wrong (which sadly, happens a lot even in science, but that’s another discussion).

Very unfortunately, however, the whole thing has degenerated from healthy skepticism to a lot of unproductive name-calling by other folks.  For that reason, I’ll delete all unproductive comments to this post (eg, those with little more than “She’s a liar, ha ha”) that adds no value to the discussion.  As much as my free time allows, of course.

Update 2013/02/17: Debate surrounding the veracity of many parts of the book continues.  I like to encourage all readers to keep yourselves informed on both sides of the debate and make up your own minds.  A lot of the comments posted by readers following this post contains useful data and links, I invite you to take a look.  You can also find a lot of information from both sides by searching on Google.