Gnomadic experiment


Who's this globetrotting gnome and what is he doing travelling around the world? The slightly unexpected answer is that Kern the gnome is calibrating pan balances, or more accurately highlighting how the varying gravitational field of the Earth can alter the measured weight of objects.

Kern the gnome and a Kern and Sohn balance, calibrated at the firm's laboratory in Balingen, Germany, are travelling around the world to anyone who requests a visit in a specially designed flight case. Gloves and cleaning implements also come along for the ride, so the mass of the gnome isn't altered by dirt or over enthusiastic cleaning.

Several factors affect the gravitational field at different locations on the Earth, for example the closer Kern gets to the equator, the less he should weigh because the velocity of the Earth's spin at the equator (1670km/hr) counteracts the force of gravity by up to 0.3%. This weight loss will also be increased by the equatorial bulge that means Kern would be further from the centre of our planet and gravity is proportional to the inverse square of the distance between two objects.

In Balingen, Kern weighed in at 308.26g, not very different from his London weight (308.66g) but at the south pole he weighed 309.82g. To track Kern's progress or request a visit, see their website.


Related Content

Audit reveals ‘Europe’s MIT’ mired in problems

10 May 2016 News and Analysis

news image

European Institute of Innovation and Technology troubled since its inception seven years ago

Get prepped

29 August 2014 Review

news image

What should you look for in those lab workhorses: balances, stirrer plates and mills? Elisabeth Jeffries surveys the scene

Most Commented

Electric choc treatment promises lower fat chocolate

22 June 2016 Research

news image

Problem of reduced fat chocolate gumming up factories’ pipelines overcome

Behind closed doors: How to win the Nobel prize

7 October 2015 Comments

news image

Bengt Norden addresses the myths and rumours surrounding the world's most prestigious science prize