Thank You, Science: The Number of Licks It Actually Takes to Get to the Center of a Tootsie Pop

Your tax dollars at work.

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The number of licks it takes to get to the center of an average-size lollipop is approximately 1,000, according to an actual scientific study recently conducted by researchers at New York University and published in Journal of Fluid Mechanics.

While the researchers didn't exactly set out to count lollipop licks (though this would have been a perfectly respectable cause), they used Tootsie Pops and water to examine the way liquid flows over an object. Beyond the realm of candy, this has practical implications for pharmacists to develop pills that dissolve and geologists who study the way rivers and streams carve different landscapes.

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

With this in mind, Ristroph and his team calculated the rate at which candy dissolves and used the mathematical equation to estimate the number of licks it would take to dissolve a lollipop in your mouth—1,000—which isn't far off from some of the estimates posted by online experimenters, says Ristroph. 

Of course even more extensive research would be required to derive a technique that makes candy last longer in your mouth. Until scientists tackle the issue, Ristroph has some tips: "Avoid biting into a lollipop," he suggests. And when licking? "Slower is better." 

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Elizabeth Narins

Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer and a former senior editor at, where she wrote about fitness, health, and more. Follow her at @ejnarins.