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Just in the Lick of Time

John Hodgman, resident expert on The Daily Show, re-asks an interesting question: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? The question was first asked in a 1970 television commercial.

To answer the question, many groups of people have done some "serious" experiments:

  • Purdue University engineering students created a "licking machine," modeled after a human tongue. It took an average of 364 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. To test the veracity of their machine's results, 20 student volunteers did the same licking test and took an average of 252 licks to reach the center.
  • Not to be "out-licked," a University of Michigan chemical engineering student also built a "licking machine," which required an average of 411 licks per Tootsie Pop.
  • A class of junior high students from Swathmore School did a human test, concluding that it took an average of 144 licks per Tootsie Pop.
  • A little off-track, Whittier Elementary students (Waukesha, WI) focused on the time aspect, learning that it takes an average of 9 minutes to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop.
Question: Combining all of the data (which is not a good thing...but lets do it anyway), how long is an average lick of a Tootsie Roll Pop?

The world will never know!

Source: Wired , February 2007, p. 106