The Math of Pringles

P&G recently sold Pringles for $1.5 billion to Diamond Foods. But do you know why the chip is so easy to eat? University of Chicago mathematics professor Benson Farb explains why the design of the Pringle owes much to Einstein‘s theory of relativity.

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  1. Laney says:

    The video says it was sold for $2.3 billion, not $1.5 billion…?

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  2. YX says:

    Pringles had about 800k in debt that DF assumed, making total transaction 2.3b

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  3. Toothy says:

    As expected the video was completely off the mark when it comes to science, the chip owes nothing to Einsteins theory of relativity.

    It just happens to slightly resemble a shape that is described by a certain equation that has been around for a lot longer then Einstein, but as it happens it is also used to describe the space in this theory.

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  4. VB in NV says:

    “when you crunch the numbers…” Aw, Brian.

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  5. caleb b says:


    Pringles are potato snacks. Be careful or the chip industry will slap you with a huge lawsuit.

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  6. glaxaco says:

    I’ve always found it interesting that Pringles neither crushed the “classic” potato chip competition, nor died out, but instead found equilibrium as something of a niche product. Similarly, although I assume their patents have long since run out, I’ve never seen anyone else produce a Pringles-like chip. I like them, but I also like Lays and Ruffles (not that I buy a lot of potato chips).

    Also, I agree with Toothy – the shape is sometimes referred to as a negatively curved 2-D surface, analogous to (3-D) curved spaces that Einstein talked about in his General theory of relativity, but the mathematical shape had been around long before Einstein.

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    • John says:

      “Similarly, although I assume their patents have long since run out, I’ve never seen anyone else produce a Pringles-like chip.”

      What about Lays Stax? They are usually right next to Pringles on the chip aisle at the supermarket.

      I seem to remember seeing some similar store brands as well last time I went. Definitely some competition.

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    • steve says:

      The analogy weaker than weak, to the point of absurdity.

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  7. John Schwabacher says:

    Spoiler alert: the video contains no information other than saying that the shape of a Pringle is a hyperbolic paraboloid. The alleged link to relativistic physics is asserted, but not discussed. Lame!

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  8. AaronS says:


    Can’t anyone tell a saddle from a hyperbolic paraboloid anymore! What in the world are they teaching our kids anyway?

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    • daver says:

      Hmm, that’s a good point. More people are familiar with Pringles now than with saddles–maybe they’ll start referring to them as “Pringle points” rather than “saddle points”. Plus, it’s alliterative.

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