The Legendary Shelf Life of a Twinkie

How long can a Twinkie REALLY last?

Matt J Weber 🦢
6 min readJul 14, 2020

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If we could step outside the universe and somehow inspect its packaging, we’d find a shelf life of something on the order of a 100 trillion years. After that, all the heat in the universe will be exhausted. Life and all energetic processes will hit their thermodynamic expiration dates. But long before that, our Sun’s nuclear fuel tank will be running on fumes. The outer layers of our star will peel off into the inner solar system, vaporizing Mercury, Venus, and most likely the Earth. No worries though. We will be long gone. All life will have perished a couple billion years earlier as the Sun grew hot enough to boil off the oceans.

But the shelf life of a typical species is around a million years. So in all likelihood humanity will never survive to see the Earth’s inglorious end. And you, as an individual organism, your shelf life is a little more than seven decades — 10 decades on the outside. So why even bother worrying about the fate of the Earth, much less the universe? Our shelf life is but a bug splat upon the windshield of an unimaginably immense cosmological road trip.

But don’t despair. The world is full of shelf lives shorter than ours. We need only go to the produce section of our local grocery store to see that.

Consider the strawberry.

Its typical shelf life is around a week — give or take a couple days. And they’re only in season for a couple months. Without a robust international food trade, once the Earth tilts away from the Sun, strawberries in the northern hemisphere would all but disappear.

That was the issue roughly 90 years ago. On that date, in a bakery in Schiller Park, Illinois, machines meant for the construction of strawberry shortcake sat idle — because strawberries were out of season. Without strawberry shortcakes on its shelves, the bakery had one less product to sell and a business without products to sell wouldn’t last much longer. So the baker conceived of a product to fill the vacancy. He put his machines to work creating a yellow sponge cake filled with cream, constructed of ingredients that he need not worry about perishing or going out of season.

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