It's three. No matter what you say, the answer is still three. Sorry, scientists: Owl 1, Science 0.
OK, I lied. Science figured it out. It's 1,000. Stupid science, always murdering life's majesty and wonder. Is nothing sacred any more?!
This information comes to us via a study from NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Florida State University, and no, the tootsie pop thing was not the point of the study, but an ancillary benefit (and the only thing most of us will probably care about). The purpose of the study was to determine how flowing fluids (primarily water currents) "generate unique shapes through erosion or dissolution," according to the paper's senior author, Leif Ristroph. They accomplished this by submerging a hard candy in a water current and observing the patterns of erosion.
The study actually has significant applications in both chemistry and geology. For chemistry, it could have a particular influence on the field of pharmaceutical science. Via ScienceDaily.com:
Understanding how materials dissolve is at the heart of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries — their products rely on the incorporation of solid compounds into solutions within reactors and within the human body.
Geology, meanwhile, benefits from the study potentially offering a way to explain the consistent yet unusual shapes present in landmasses. I am going to just go ahead and assume that is both important and of great potential benefit to humanity.
I'm still mad about the tootsie roll thing, though.
Image via tootsierollpops/Facebook.