Take the Science Friday Lollipop Challenge!

Test out how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, and report back.

Hello Science Friday fans and candy enthusiasts! It’s time to officially and scientifically answer one of the universe’s greatest mysteries: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

That profound conundrum is the subject of our newest video, “The Lollipop Hypothesis,” in which several researchers at NYU’s Applied Mathematics Lab set up an elaborate experiment involving lasers, flow tanks, and high-speed cameras, in hopes of answering that question.

…Actually they were aiming to study how pills dissolve or landscapes erode—but the math and physics apply to lollipops as well. Watch the video to find out how.

Related Video

The Lollipop Hypothesis

Now it’s time for you to test their results. You don’t need this high-tech set-up or a Ph.D. to try this out on your own. Here’s how you do it:

1. Select your favorite flavor of Tootsie Pop. (We take no responsibility for any blue tongues.)
2. Unwrap Tootsie Pop. (This is critical. Do NOT skip this step.)
3. Gently apply tongue to unwrapped Tootsie Pop.
4. Count each lick. (This can be done out loud or using pen and paper.)
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you see and feel the center of the pop, which is whenever you reach the Tootsie Roll.
6. Come back here and tell us how long it took.

Don’t worry if you lose exact count—your results will be used to produce an average number of licks. And if you by chance you bite on the pop prematurely or cannot finish, let us know that too! (So we can taunt you endlessly about lack of self-control.) We’ll analyze the data and reveal the results in a few weeks.

Meet the Writer

About Luke Groskin

Luke Groskin is Science Friday’s video producer. He’s on a mission to make you love spiders and other odd creatures.