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The Physics of Eating Candy

For certain sweet treats, researchers found, patient indulgers can enjoy a single piece of candy for up to nearly half an hour - so long as they resist the urge to bite or chew

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Photo: Bart Heird

For many candies, “the time of joy due to tastiness is quite finite,” authors of a new paper in Physics Education point out. Candy melts or inspires a quick chomp, and the ephemeral, sugary goodness is hardly registered before the next pop of another M&M or Skittle is necessary. The Austrian physicists who wrote this paper were interested in figuring out how to make the experience last. They found that, for certain sweet treats, patient indulgers can enjoy a single piece of candy for up to nearly half an hour—so long as they resist the urge to bite or chew.

As NPR reports, the researchers promised in their paper to investigate the ”serious questions on the optimal strategy of enjoying a candy.” They decided to test hard, spherical candies’ fortitude against dissolving by placing them in bowls of water with a similar pH to saliva.

The physicists expressed surprise when their tests revealed that candies disolved linearly instead of exponentially. In other words, they melt at a steady rate over time rather than accelerating as the dissolving process progresses. If one is careful not to bite or vigorously suck, such a candy can last for up to 25 minutes, they report.

But the researchers don’t judge. Candy can be eaten in any way a candy-eater pleases, including in an accelerated manner, they write. “We stress that the best thing to do when eating a candy is to forget about these considerations,” they conclude, “since they draw your attention away from what candies are made for: enjoyment.”

But there is one caveat: the researchers only tested a popular German candy called Leibesperlen, or “love pearls.” For hopeful candy fans in the U.S., they speculate that the results might also apply to other round candies such as Fireballs, Lemonheads or Gobstoppers, though more research will be required to confirm these hypotheses.

More from Smithsonian.com:

A Cultural History of Candy 
Cooking with Easter Candy 

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