All Creatures Great and Small

Have you ever slid into a chair and found you can’t rest your back against it and get your feet to touch the floor at the same time? You are not alone. The Caesar Project, a study being conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in Warrendale, PA, is compiling a database of the modern human’s shape and size in order to design products that better fit our needs.

According to spokesman David Schwartz, this information has not been studied or documented in the last 30 years, at which time calipers were the favored measuring tool. With a nod to technology, the project is ditching those outdated metal clamps in favor of lasers. Researchers place stickers on subjects clad in tight, form-fitting clothing and then scan the stickers with laser beams, producing computer images that can be precisely measured.

The researchers, who plan to measure 9,000 volunteers, hope the data will give designers and manufacturers a more realistic portrait of the shapes and sizes of John and Jane Q. Public. Jantzen Inc., one of the project sponsors, hopes the findings will help them design better-fitting bathing suits. Mr. and Mrs. Public, on the other hand, probably just wish that lasers could trim off some excess pounds.