Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jan from Palm Bay, FL. Jan Wonders, “how do they get bubble gum in a lollipop?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jan!
Have you ever heard the phrase "like a kid in a candy store"? If you're a kid and you've ever been in a candy store, then you understand exactly what the phrase means. It refers to a wide-eyed excitement that comes from being surrounded by tantalizing possibilities.
When you scan the shelves of a candy store — or the candy aisle at a local grocery or convenience store — what types of candies capture your attention? Do you prefer candy bars or hard candies?
For some kids, only one sweet treat truly satisfies. It comes in a wide variety of flavors. It's easy to hold and carry around. It even lasts quite a while if you can resist biting into it. What are we talking about? The lollipop, of course!
Lollipops, often called suckers, have been around for a long time. No one knows for sure who the first person was to put a hard candy on a stick to make it easier to eat. Prehistoric people may have created their own versions of lollipops by eating honey from the end of a stick. Hard candies affixed to sticks or the ends of pencils were popular homemade treats in the mid-1800s.
Mass production of lollipops didn't begin until the early 20th century. Over time, lollipops have been made in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They've also been modified to contain special treats in their centers, including soft chocolate, chewing gum, jawbreakers, and fizzing candies.
If you've ever bitten into a lollipop to discover chewing gum in the center, you may have WONDERed how they get that gum in the center of a hard candy sucker. Is it magic? Nope! It's just part of the manufacturing process.
Most lollipops are made of a combination of the same basic ingredients: sugar, water, corn syrup, and flavorings. Sugar and corn syrup are mixed with water and heated to form a sweet solution.
When the solution reaches 310º F, which is known as the hard crack stage, flavorings can be added. At this stage, the solution is a malleable, sticky liquid that can be shaped and poured into molds easily. When it cools, it becomes a solid with a consistency similar to glass that can be easily broken or cracked.
During the manufacturing process, it's easy to insert chewing gum or a variety of other ingredients into the solution before it cools and hardens. Modern mass production methods allow companies to produce amazing quantities of lollipops. For example, Spangler Candy Company makes over one billion Dum Dum suckers every year, and Tootsie Roll Industries produces about 16 million lollipops every day!
If you unwrap a lollipop and give it a few licks, you might start to WONDER how many licks it'll take to get to that chewing gum in the center. This is a question that has been asked many times over the ages. Recently, however, scientists have conducted experiments to determine a scientific answer to this question.
Measuring how quickly lollipops dissolve when exposed repeatedly to sprays of water, scientists determined that a lollipop with a radius of one centimeter would require about 1,000 licks to reach the center. A larger lollipop with a radius of one inch would require about 2,500 licks! This data might help to explain why most of us can't resist eventually biting into a lollipop to get to the treat at the center: we're just too impatient to lick a lollipop 1,000-2,500 times!