(L)Ode Upon a Creaking Chair

Contrary to what you might think, sitting is not a static activity, unless you are dead. In the study Chair Load Analysis During Daily Sitting Activities, Carla Paoliello and Edgar Vladimiro Mantilla Carrasco adopt the perspective of a chair. They quantify the shifting risks your furniture faces when someone sits on it.

Now – right now – is a great moment in the history of furniture, because “the investigation of furniture behaviour itself and its components under a given load is just beginning”.

Paoliello and Mantilla are based at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, in Brazil. They published their report in the Forest Products Journal. Sitting, they emphasise, is indeed a “rather dynamic” activity. Here, in their words, is the situation:

“Sitting is a posture in which the weight of the body is transferred to an area supported mainly by the ischial tuberosities and their surrounding soft tissues. In 1979, Panero and Zelnik determined that when sitting, about 75% of the total body weight is supported by only four square inches. This constitutes an exceptionally heavy load, distributed on quite a small area,…

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.