"I'm too embarrassed to admit to having eaten there; I'll just tell everyone I was doing NCMO instead. I have my pride, after all." -Hobbes' friend
Question #19899 posted on 05/08/2003 midnight
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,
How many licks does it take to get to the middle of a lollipop?
- Mishelle

A: Dear Mishelle,
It's TOOTSIE. NOT LOLLI!!! And Toostie was the name of the inventor's daughter, and none of them contain chocolate. Mmmm . . . carob donuts.
-Mr Turtle
A: Dear Mishelle,
Well, that depends on whether you mean completely uncovering the center, or just reaching it on one side. I decided to do a test, using a large number of tootsie roll pops, and came up with the following numbers:
To reach the center on one side: Avg licks: 74 Minimum was 63, Maximum 86
To reach the center all around: Avg licks: 359 Minimum 310, Max 402
Your lick count may vary considerably, depending on the surface area and texture of your tongue, and how aggressively you lick your tootsie roll pops. I am now thoroughly disgusted with tootsie roll pops, so don't anyone offer me any anytime soon. Not until tomorrow, at least.
- Rufus the Wonder Puppy
A: Editor's Note: This question was asked in our archives May 15, 2002. This is our scientific answer.

Dear Curious,
Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc. is an incredibly friendly company as far as answering letters concerning Tootsie Pops are concerned, and if you write them a letter asking about any Tootsie Pop related issue, they will reply. I invite you to do so, just so that you won't have to take my word for it. But since you asked for my word, here it comes. The Indian rumor is as old as the Tootsie Pop itself, and has as much substance to it as Tootsie Pops do. What many people will tell you is that finding the Indian shooting at the star entitles you to a free Tootsie Pop. Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc. will tell you otherwise. For an interesting link regarding the prize, go to: http://www.daily.umn.edu/daily/1996/12/09/sports/pops/ Since you are a college student, I trust you will be able to separate fact from fiction. I think I get the Indian every other Tootsie Pop, so for this girl to go fifteen years without finding it makes her sound like the unluckiest Tootsie Pop consumer ever.
The number of licks question has been posed a number of times to the 100 Hour Board, and answers may be found in the archives. So that you don't have to go digging, I will provide yet another answer to the eternal question of how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop. First, let us make some assumptions so that we can handle this problem appropriately.
Assumption #1: By center of the tootsie pop we shall assume center of mass.
Assumption #2: Only licks are allowed to reach the center (no bites, sucks, chomps or chews).
Assumption #3: Licks are ideal; that is that each and every lick has the same licking power as the first lick.
Assumption #4: Licking power does not vary from person to person.
Assumption #5: All Tootsie Pops are identical.
Assumption #6: Uniform licking, which means the Tootsie Pop maintains each unlicked proportion at all stages of the licking process.
Assumptions #7: Tootsie Pops are of uniform consistency, which means that each part of the pop yields under the same licking pressure as another part.
Assumption #8: Temperature of mouth = Normal human body temp. = 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit. This is important in determining the solubility of a Tootsie Pop in saliva.
Assumption #9: Solubility of Tootsie Pops in saliva is the same as solubility in water.
Assumption #10: Assume activity coefficient of Tootsie Pop and saliva are equal to one. If you want to know what this means, take some chemistry classes. This may mean that you don't want to know what this means, and I don't blame you.
Assumption #11: Acceleration due to gravity is independent of altitude and there is no air resistance. I don't see how this assumption applies, but it's good to have it there just in case.
Now that we have all our assumptions laid out, we can go to work on the problem. I will spare you the tedious details, but based off these assumptions I get 47 licks. This may be attributed to the fact that assumptions 3-7 and 9-11 are really quite wrong (you may have noticed that the wise owl in the ads ignores assumption #2). Eliminating these assumptions makes the problem a lot harder, but hey, we're here to sacrifice for you), I get 974.34 licks, which looks reasonable. Better yet, you can lick to the center yourself, then write the company letting them know, so that they can publish your results to the world. Have fun!
-Othello