How Many Licks?

How Many Licks?

We all remember this mathematical problem from our childhoods.

“How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop?”

The question, posed by a young boy to a wise owl, was never answered. The reason being that no one, not even the wise old owl, could resist the temptation to bite.

For decades, thousands have faced the dental trauma of licking away at the sweet outer shell, and ultimately cracking their teeth in a desperate quest to reach the candy center.

Now modern science has provided us with a definitive answer to this sugary conundrum.

Dr. Leif Ristroph, a mathematician at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, has conducted a study on the nature of fluid dynamics, and by placing the humble lollipop at the center of his research, he has determined the effect of the flow of liquid over solid objects.

According to Dr. Ristroph, “How flowing fluids generate unique shapes through erosion or dissolution is complex and fascinating.

As a whimsical application, this scaling allows us to address the long-standing question: ‘How many licks does it take to get to the center of a lollipop?’”

In order to definitively answer the question, Dr. Ristroph placed candy lollipops of different sizes and shapes into flows of water moving at different speeds. He then monitored how they dissolved using time-lapse photography.

After running numerous tests, Ristroph discovered that the lollipops dissolved in a consistent shape at a rate of 1 cm dissolving each hour. Based on these calculations, Dr. Ristroph and his colleagues have calculated that the center of the Tootsie-roll can be reached with a lip-smacking 2,500 licks.

Of course their findings do also have some serious applications with dissolution of materials, which can be an essential process in many chemical and pharmaceutical industries. It could also help to explain some of the processes that occur during erosion of rocks by rivers and the sea.

But let’s face it, these are all small potatoes in comparison to the age-old question that has been answered. Teeth the world over can be spared the overexposure to sugar that has come from failed testing in the past.

Even Wise Old Owl can relax his teeth in confidence, thanks to Dr. Ristroph and his research.

Now if we could just figure out how the Tooth Fairy is able to replace so many teeth across the planet without being caught.