An average sized potato sells in Waitrose for about 60p these days, but if you buy them by the cwt (112 pounds) they are a lot cheaper. If you buy them by the ton, then they are fantastically cheap, and once sliced up into slivers and plunged into hot fat, the packaging must cost about 1000 times more than the product itself. Now I am talking 'crisps'.
Sir Walter Raleigh (if you believe the propaganda) turned the English staple food from wheat bread to these tubers when he returned home from the Americas with a ship-load of them. He also came back with a leaf which you dried out, stuck in your mouth and set fire to in order to breathe in the smoke (if you believe Bob Newhart), so you can blame him for both obesity and nicotine addiction (if you believe the Beatles).
Somebody sent me a long and rambling email the other day which explained why the size of the rocket-burners on the NASA Space Shuttle are directly related to the size of a horse's arse.
It is all down to the gauge of a railway line, apparently, which is four feet, eight and a half inches. This set the size of railway tunnels across the US, and the size of the tunnels governed the size of the burners which had to be transported through them. These dimensions were brought over from England about 150 years ago, and they were determined by the width of the wheels of a Roman chariot, which was set by the distance between two horse's arses, and all chariots had to be the same width so they could run -in the ruts of other chariots without either losing a wheel or getting stuck in the mud of occupied England.
I have explained all this the wrong way round, but it goes to show how difficult it is to come up with new thinking when designing modern objects, and it also explains why all Dyson products are so efficient - if a little on the expensive side, due to research investment.
From a potato to high-tech via a horses arse. I should be on the design team, with clear-sky thinking like that. I can't help wondering if I missed a bit out somewhere in the middle, though.