If there’s one scene in “Friends” that describes the reality of living in New York, it’s the iconic “Pivot Scene.” In it, Ross draws a sketch of how he, Rachel, and Chandler will be able to move the couch through a flight of stairs. They lift the couch and start carrying it up the stairs, only to realize that it doesn’t fit. Ross is screaming “Pivot, pivot, pivot!” his pitch increasing in intensity, until the couch gets stuck right in the middle of the stairwell.
By the end of the episode, Ross, Chandler and Rachel have managed to get the couch up the stairs to the apartment, but the furniture has been cut in half and looks completely wrecked. Ross tries to return the couch to the store, but it doesn’t work.
After 10 seasons, “Friends” taught us one lesson, and that is that you should always hire a moving company or know what you’re doing. Which is really hard if you’re not some sort of physicist.
Caroline Zunckel, a mathematician, consulted with SpareRoom, a site that connects you with apartments and roommates. Together, they devised an effective way of carrying a couch up a flight of stairs without ruining the back or your furniture.
Zunckel analyzed the pivot scene in “Friends” and created the mathematical solution to Ross’ problem. She came up with an equation that she called “The Friends Solution,” where she detailed how Ross could’ve coped with his problem by taking all of the following variables into account. You can check out the rules and the graphic below:
Angle of vertical tilt (T) = 44.15064 – 11.94274 x WS (Width of the Stairwell) + 8.69119xWC (Width of the Couch) + 3.65961xLC (Length of the Couch)
Step 1: First Ross should have measured the width of the stairs (WS), and the width (WC) and length (LC) of the couch.
Step 2: Ross then should have used the equation to find out the minimum angle (T) that the couch would need to be tilted upward to move around the 90-degree corner of the stairwell.
Step 3: After carrying the couch to the corner, Ross, Rachel and Chandler reach a point where they can’t move any more. When this happens Ross, Rachel and Chandler should have rested the couch against the corner.
Step 4: Here, the friends should have tilted the couch vertically toward the ceiling until the angle between the stairs and the base of the couch was greater than or equal to T. At this point the vertical length of the couch would be smaller than the horizontal length and they should have been able to successfully pivot the couch round the corner without it getting stuck.
Step 5: Once round the corner, Ross, Rachel and Chandler should have moved the couch back to its original orientation and then carried it up to the apartment.“