Originally Posted by MojoMan
From the standpoint of Physics and Engineering, I have serious reservations that anyone could come up with a cost and weight-effective way to employ piezoelectric materials in a ski in such a way that it would alter the flex of a ski to the point that there is a significant and advantageous mechanical effect for a skier. Without supplying power from an external source, the amount of torsional rigidity to be had from the introduction of an inductive current generated solely by a skiers weight and speed is going to be minimal, if even noticeable.
Anyways, if Piezoelectric materials really offered a significant performance and handling boost with a practical cost/performance ratio, everyone would be using piezoelectric metal layers in their ski design. They aren't. Therefore, without even appealing to physics or engineering, I would say it's a relatively safe bet to conclude that any performance benefits from such technology are minimal, and it is quite possible that any noticeable factors such as increased dampness or stiffness are due to other factors such as metal layering or the distribution of the materials in the ski. The 'technology' is used as the marketing vehicle to differentiate a brand and give it a psychological advantage over the competition.
Nobody can copyright the use of piezoelectric materials in a ski any more than someone could copyright the use of wood. Both do not represent unique designs, they represent the use of naturally occurring materials in the construction of a universal sporting good design in the public domain -- a ski. Nobody can copy a skis construction but anyone is free to use any materials that occur naturally in nature.
I'm beginning to sound like a shill for Head, when in fact I only own one pair now and generally don't like the directions they're, ah, heading. But I've gotta point out some issues in your reasoning.
1) Yesterday the NYT reported exobiologsts had discovered a bacteria that eats arsenic, in place of phosphorus. ATP is the foundation for most energy made by life on earth, and we've always assumed that it's biochemically impossible to substitute arsenic for phosphorus. Which is why it's a poison. So new game, toss or modify the old theories, look for new kinds of life Out There. That's good science; data tests theory. New data may require theory to be changed. Here's bad science: Economists confidently predicting that the last two years could never happen, because their theories said it couldn't. And when it did, many blamed the data, or called it a one time aberration. Not much of a rush to rethink Chicago school theory, huh?
Here's more weak science: "Without supplying power from an external source, the amount of torsional rigidity to be had from the introduction of an inductive current generated solely by a skiers weight and speed is going to be minimal, if even noticeable." It's bad science because it relies on existing theory to reject new data that may challenge that theory. You even own a pair of Chip 77's, but attribute the dampness to more metal; it can't be the chip. Why not just say that it's not clear how it could be the chip, so you'd love to test one in a lab? Hell, you may even have access to a lab that could do it.
If you recall when you skied them, your chip 77's oddly retained their dampness/lateral resistance to deflection as speeds increased. Not a big deal, but as you state, noticeable. If they were simply damp because of strategically placed metal, that would not have occurred. Trust me on this one, I own both GS skis and Stockli SS's; as speed increases even with planks (and SS's have 3 layers of metal), force overcomes stiffness, deflection increases, and dampness is gradually lost. Otherwise they wouldn't "wake up" at 50 mph. So your own experience isn't explained by the physics of what you assume is the explanation. I'm not saying that part of the impact couldn't be due to passive metal and resonance tuning. But I'm saying, what if that's somehow magnified through the Chip beyond what your conjectural model of ski construction assumes?
2) Not a lawyer, but suspect you are way off about patents. While the piezoelectric effect may be a natural phenomenon, like gravity, there are countless piezoelectric devices that can and have been patented. As recent patent office decisions about genes have made clear, it's not whether something is "natural," but whether it's being put to an innovative use through modifications. Those modifications can be as simple as characterizing a gene. Wood, incidentally, can be patented. All you have to do is change its properties a bit, say by pressure and a bit of chemical preservative, to create decking like ProWood.
3) To say that tech is driven by marketing, is to say that we live in a late capitalist system. Uh yes, and your point is? All tech has to be driven either by regulation (air bags, UV irradiation of milk, etc.) or by success in the marketplace. A company that doesn't advertise its tech in that marketplace sure better have great viral schemes on Facebook, or it's dead meat. Logically, it does not follow that marketing tech proves that the tech is trivial or bs. You need another premise proving that. In the absence of that premise, all you can say is that some tech works, some doesn't, regardless of marketing claims. To say that "Well, the truth is, skiing is very marketing-driven-- more so than almost all other sports and activities out there.," is just another unproven claim, not "truth". I'd argue that it's dead wrong, in fact, because skiing is a minor sport, far less relevant economically than most. BTW you should read the equipment claims for larger sports like tennis or golf. I can become a pro by shifting to new racquets or clubs. (And in fact, tech changes in golf clubs over the past few decades have made a giant difference in the average hacker's game. Ever compared hitting with a Ping and an old forged Hogan?) And the obvious fact that we all benefit from taking lessons doesn't negate the relevance of tech. If anything there's a feedback relationship such that tech can be used more effectively with lessons that help us use it. Or do you also think shaped skis are a marketing ploy?
4) In fact, you increasingly come across like a Luddite when you expand your ire to include tip rocker. Oh sorry, only we gullible skiers seem to think it has an effect, clearly its physics is impossible, and anyway, we're all pawns in the hands of marketers. I guess bicycling alone is pristine, unmoved by marketing claims, all its tech effective, all its riders unconcerned with "buying speed."