Scientists Calculate Number of Licks to Get to the Center of a Tootsie Pop
And it's 1000.
Before you cry foul, know that the scientists at New York University weren't just looking to put a certain bespectacled owl out of work. Their study, published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics this month, is concerned with how materials dissolve within a fluid flow, such as rocks in geological environments and pills for pharmaceutical applications—or hard candy and saliva.
After modeling this process generally, it wasn't hard to apply it to the age-old Tootsie pop question. “Using that model, we can take an object of any size and kind of a typical flow speed that would be determined by how fast you lick candy, and then determine how long it would take for that to dissolve all the material away," applied mathematics professor Leif Ristroph told ABC News.
The scientists didn't actually count literal licks (although they did get boxes of free lollipops from Tootsie Roll Industries when the company learned of the study) because they found it difficult to control the experiment in that case. “We started to test it, and it’s hard. Resisting the temptation to just bite into one is tough,” Ristroph admitted.
This isn't the first attempt to answer the burning question. A "licking machine" designed by Purdue engineering students averaged 341 licks to the center. A similar experiment at the University of Michigan landed on 411 as the magic number. The world may never know after all.