Tootsie Pop’s How Many Licks Resolved by Scientists

Researchers have recently studied how fluid flows dissolve material and they have done so using candy. According to a study published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics in January 2015, scientists have resolved how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

It is an unforgettable question posed by old television commercials: “Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” The Tootsie Rolls industry website poses some theories of their own. Nonetheless, researchers everywhere seem to conclude that, well, it takes a lot more than three. It take even more than a hundred, proves a contemporary study in fluid mechanics.

J. Mac Huang, M. Nicholas Moore, and Leif Ristroph teamed up from the Applied Mathematics Laboratory at NYU’s Courant Institute and the Department of Mathematics and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute at Florida State University to study the complex process by which materials dissolve. Specifically, the study conducted by these researchers looked at how hard candy dissolves in streamline high-speed water flows.

So, since scientists have resolved how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, what is the number? Researchers say about 1,000. It takes roughly 1,000 licks to get through one centimeter of candy, which is the same amount of candy that separates the average licker from the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop. This number was determined by researchers utilizing a theory for how flow causes materials like candy to dissolve and shrink.

Another interesting conclusion was reached in the study completed by Huang, Moore, and Ristroph: Despite the original form, a consistent shape is created in hard candy when it is immersed in water current. That shape persists until the candy is dissolved. The researchers captured these shapes though the use of time-lapse photography.

The labs involved in this study look at more than candy, of course. FSU’s Department of Mathematics and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute also conducts studies on flows that occur naturally on earth. This includes research into wild fire dynamics and hurricane dynamics. Because both water and air are viewed as fluids by scientists who study fluid dynamics, Leif Ristroph and his fellow researchers at NYU’s Applied Mathematics Laboratory have additionally tested a prototype of a winged-robot that can fly by moving like a jellyfish.

Scientists may have resolved how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, but this might not seems all that important to the field of science. However, this study on candy could actually have impact in other areas within the scientific community. For instance, comprehending how material dissolves is incredibly important to pharmaceutical and chemical industries because it is crucial to know how varying substances will act inside the fluids of human bodies. Another field of science that this new study may impact is geology. Information about dissolving material could give insight into a further understanding of the shapes of the land masses around the world.