Mike Pomranz
Updated February 12, 2015

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? It’s the question that haunted your childhood and comprised the chorus of your favorite Lil’ Kim song.

Now, researchers at New York University believe they have found the answer to the elusive question: 1,000. Anyone else surprised the number came out so even?

While working on a paper entitled “Shape dynamics and scaling laws for a body dissolving in fluid flow” that was published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, scientists used lollipops as research subjects. They were hoping to uncover how, for example, a river can shape a landscape, but over the course of the project they realized they has stumbled upon a way to answer the licks question.

“Licking a lollipop can be viewed in exactly that [same] way,” study co-author Leif Ristroph, an assistant professor of mathematics at New York University's Courant Institute, was quoted as saying. “The tongue sweeps fluid (saliva) over the candy surface, and the fluid carries away the dissolved sugars.”

With this epiphany in hand, the team was able to create a mathematical model to estimate the number of licks it would take to get to the center of the average lollipop. They believe it’s somewhere around 1,000. You know, give or take a lick.

Okay, but did they account for the spherical volume of the Tootsie Roll center? I bet they didn’t.  

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