Many people can recall the Tootsie Pop commercial from the late-60’s which begged the question, “How many licks does it take to get the center of a Tootsie Pop?” The owl in the commercial would respond with a rambunctious “Let’s find out,” only to take a few licks – and be to the center of that very Tootsie Pop. Scientists have finally put a number on how many licks it takes to get to the center of a lollipop, and that figure is significantly larger than the handful of licks the commercial suggested.
Mathematicians in New York, at New York University, conducted a study and experiment to answer that age old question – and the number they came up with was 1,000. “We used these results to figure out in general how fluids dissolve materials, and we realized that that is basically what you’re doing when you’re enjoying a lollipop,” said Leif Ristroph of New York University. While the results might seem amusing at first, they had very serious implications and an even more-serious process for coming up with those figures.
Ristroph went on to note that they could “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.” One of the major roadblocks that the team pointed out with this particular experiment was the fact that many individuals would eventually bite into the lollipop. Comparatively, many people would lick a lollipop to a certain extent, and then bite down on it – chewing it up beyond that point.
Tootsie Roll was even excited about NYU conducting this experiment. In a statement issued out by the President of Tootsie Roll Industries, Ellen Gordon said “We’re thrilled that New York University conducted a study to help find out how many licks it really takes to get to the Tootsie Roll of a Tootsie Pop.” While the commercial will forever live in American culture, the real answer is one that harshly combats what Mr. Owl first said.