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Candy Corn Math: How Our Winners Won

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 24 comments

See kids, this is why you should stay in school. Candy maths.

Earlier this year, we ran a contest where you guys had to submit your best estimate for the number of candy corn inside a Corsair 800D tower case.

The answer was 50,712 candy corn pieces – a very specific number that a few of you were very close to with your guesses. See the filling of the case at YouTube.

Three of our winners, who took home 32 GB Voyager flash drives, were kind enough to share with us their methods on how they came up with their final answers.

Timothy Finnegan of Tucson, AZ guessed 51,000 (288 away) and told us his method:

I estimated that a candy corn kernel was about 0.1 in.^3 (~0.25x0.4x1).  From that I found that perfectly packed into the volume of the case, you could fit ~51840 if perfectly packed.  However, since the candy corn is not perfectly shaped and the case is not perfectly packed, as well as the presence of drive cages etc, that number would be reduced somewhat.  Thus I figured I'd round down to the nearest thousand and go with that.

24*24*9=5184 in^3

.25*.4*1=0.1 in^3

5184/0.1=51840 pieces - 840 for losses to cages and imperfect packing = 51000 pieces

Erin Cleary of Portland, OR came up with 50,840 (128 away) also by using some mathematical reasoning:

I didn't have any candy corn on hand when I worked this out so I had to estimate the size of one kernel from pictures on Jelly Belly's website.  It came out to be about 13/16" long, 6/16" wide, and 3.5/16" deep.  I calculated the area of the kernel volume as if it were a triangle with a base of 0.082" squared and a height of 13/16".  (0.21875 * 0.375) * (13/16) = 0.066625 cubic inches. 

The given measurements for the case were 24.00" x 9.00" x 24.00".  This came out to be 5,184 cubic inches.  I estimated that as much as 1% of the case interior was blocked by drive cages and whatnot, which brought the internal volume down to 5132.16 cubic inches.  I divided this by the volume of each kernel to get 77,030 possible kernels.  That's assuming an impossible packing efficiency of 100%.  I estimated that the actual packing efficiency of candy corn was a little less than that of a standard body-centered cubic lattice, so I figured a packing factor of about 0.66.  77,030 * 0.66 = 50,839.8 => 50,840

Of course, there's always just plain luck. Justin Langness of Long Beach, CA guessed 50,598 (114 away), well, by simply guessing.

Seemed like a good number... not much thought went into it.

Corngratulations to all of our winners and thanks for entering to all those who participated

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Top Comments
  • 24 Hide
    logitic , December 30, 2009 1:33 PM
    Damn you math. You have foiled me for the last time!!!!!!!!!
  • 16 Hide
    plinkoblinko , December 30, 2009 1:45 PM
    haha, guess ftw!
Other Comments
  • -4 Hide
    ubernoobie , December 30, 2009 1:32 PM
    Umm, who won the case?
  • Display all 24 comments.
  • 24 Hide
    logitic , December 30, 2009 1:33 PM
    Damn you math. You have foiled me for the last time!!!!!!!!!
  • 8 Hide
    Supertrek32 , December 30, 2009 1:34 PM
    Corngratulations? Can you get any more corny? =P
  • 6 Hide
    sunflier , December 30, 2009 1:36 PM
    I would have been closer than any of these had TH staff not snacked on them before it was over.
  • 16 Hide
    plinkoblinko , December 30, 2009 1:45 PM
    haha, guess ftw!
  • 5 Hide
    sliem , December 30, 2009 1:55 PM
    Plain lucky guessing all the way.
  • 4 Hide
    Marcus Yam , December 30, 2009 1:57 PM
    ubernoobieUmm, who won the case?

    Winners were announced in a previous story:,9222.html
  • -3 Hide
    juanc , December 30, 2009 1:59 PM
    The real issue is buying a case to know it's real volume. For the candy corn poral space and volume you can fill a kitchen tool that measures water volume and know how much candy corn fits in that volume.

    But without knowing the real volume of the case is hard to estimate.
  • 4 Hide
    liquidblue , December 30, 2009 2:13 PM
    I still want the candy corn >.
  • 2 Hide
    ckthecerealkiller , December 30, 2009 2:13 PM
    I used a very similar method to Erin. Only I figured a packing fraction of .68... I did figure the size of the drive cages and just subtracted that from the total volume. Which probably threw me off a bit. I got 50,180. Congrats again!
  • 0 Hide
    brendano257 , December 30, 2009 2:15 PM
    Very nice use of math. The actual method was developed by Enrico Fermi, he made estimates on the size of things like the universe, and was famous for not giving an exact number, but saying "on the order of." He didn't put much value in exact numbers, but whether or not he was 10times too small or 10times too large, if not, then it was close enough.

    Just a little tidbit from HighSchool Physics....
  • 6 Hide
    bluegene , December 30, 2009 3:38 PM
    Oh the irony...pure guess got the accurate answer
  • -4 Hide
    Pei-chen , December 30, 2009 4:11 PM
    bluegeneOh the irony...pure guess got the accurate answer

    Justin Langness of Long Beach, CA is actually Justin Long a.k.a. I'm a Mac. He used his superior OS to guess the number.
  • 0 Hide
    agnickolov , December 30, 2009 4:28 PM
    It'd have helped if the dimensions were obtainable on the Internet. I did my my math too, but I came with 2 millions. For the record I've never seen the stuff in my life and I wasn't about to go shopping for it for a mere contest...
  • 4 Hide
    IzzyCraft , December 30, 2009 8:31 PM
    sliemPlain lucky guessing all the way.

    Just proves i rather be lucky then anything else
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , December 30, 2009 10:50 PM
    sunflierI would have been closer than any of these had TH staff not snacked on them before it was over.

    Yuck, no way. Who actually eats those things?
  • 0 Hide
    False_Dmitry_II , December 31, 2009 1:36 AM
    cangeliniYuck, no way. Who actually eats those things?

    Plenty of people.
  • 0 Hide
    JMcEntegart , December 31, 2009 2:29 AM
    False_Dmitry_IIPlenty of people.

    pics or it didn't happen.
  • 1 Hide
    anamaniac , December 31, 2009 7:07 AM
    JMcEntegartpics or it didn't happen.

    Nothing like a late night lol... which is bad, because others are sleeping...
    I'm imagining a redhead snacking on a case with 50,712 peices of candycorn in it in a oretic way...

    Candycorn is awesome. I would rather it over the cae.
  • 1 Hide
    yugmus , December 31, 2009 1:17 PM
    I originally estimated that the candy corn was .0625 in^3 and had a 90% efficiency in filling the case with all the blocked areas and whatnot. and estimated around 74000. I figured I would check my math on jellybelly's website by checking some containers to see if the specified qty. in a specific size container. They did have a 36 qty. 1 oz. package that I used to calculate that there are ~5700 candy corns in a 10 lb. box. There were 12 boxes on the table and I assumed they used them all and it led me to guess 69000. It looks like they only used about 9 boxes though or my math is way off. I should have taken the time to measure a candy corn but I was too lazy I guess. I didn't win but I enjoyed the 5 minutes I took to calculate my answer.
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