In the classic commercial asking how many licks it takes "to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop," the conclusion was: "The world may never know." Turns out that was wrong—scientists have figured out how many licks are required, though the figure is approximate. It takes about 1,000 licks to get to a lollipop's center, researchers say in a New York University press release. The finding was incidental to research on what some might see as a topic of more importance: the way water currents shape objects they're rushing past. The findings help explain how solids dissolve—handy knowledge for pharmacologists making pills and geologists studying erosion.
Researchers used candy to reach their conclusions. When they dipped homemade hard candy into flowing water, they found that the same shape was eventually left—no matter how the candy was shaped to begin with—before the candy disappeared completely. "We used these results to figure out in general how fluids dissolve materials, and we realized that that is basically what you're doing when you're enjoying a lollipop," a scientist tells ABC News. Tootsie Roll Industries applauds the work. "How many licks is a question fans of our candy have asked us for decades," the company's president tells ABC. “We're thrilled that New York University has conducted a study to help find out." But it wasn't without sacrifice, says the researcher: "Resisting the temptation to just bite into one is tough." Sadly, the news comes shortly after the passing of Melvin Gordon, the company's CEO. (Scientists have also figured out why popcorn goes "pop.")