How a freelance mathematician solved the Friends “Pivot” scene


Remember the iconic scene from Friends, in which Ross tries to get his new sofa up the stairs, with the help of Chandler and Rachel? “P-I-V-O-T!” he yells, as the three of them struggle to manoeuvre the couch. Now, 20 years after the episode was released, the solution to the problem has been found by a freelance mathematician. It turns out that the trick was to find the correct angle of tilt that would have helped get the sofa successfully up to Ross’s apartment.

The expert who has helped solve this problem is Kolabtree freelancer Caroline Zabarowski (Zunckel). Cow PR, a London-based PR agency, posted the project on Kolabtree on behalf of their client, SpareRoom. They were looking for a freelance mathematician to come up with a formula for the best way to get a sofa into an apartment, especially one without a lift and a flight of stairs.

Once the project was posted on Kolabtree, they received six proposals from mathematicians and data scientists worldwide. The proposal that stood out was a detailed breakdown of the problem from Caroline, an astrophysicist with a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Oxford, and several years of experience working in data science and mathematics.

Presenting the problem diagrammatically and working through 10,000 simulations, Caroline proposed the following equation to find the correct angle of vertical tilt:

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Angle of vertical tilt  = 44.15064 – (11.94274 x WS) + (8.69119 x WC) + (3.65961 x LC)
where WS is the Width of Stairwell, WC the width of couch and LC the length of couch.

Pretty cool, right? Here’s an infographic explaining the moves Ross would have had to make to keep his previous new sofa in his apartment:

Image courtesy SpareRoom

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About Author

Ramya Sriram manages digital content and communications at Kolabtree (, the world's largest freelancing platform for scientists. She has over a decade of experience in publishing, advertising and digital content creation.

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