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

Market place

23 February 2009 Marketplace

news image

New products, March 2009

Compromise puts Israel on course to join Europe's science programme

2 December 2013 News and Analysis

news image

EU and Israel agree to disagree over settlements but money will not be going to organisations beyond the Green Line

Most Read

Bubble wrap could send lab costs packing

23 July 2014 Research

news image

Potential bubbles up across wide range of uses as storage and test vessels, especially for poor countries

Takeover battle pushes Allergan to cut R&D jobs

28 July 2014 Business

news image

Besieged by serially acquisitive Valeant, the Botox maker will lay off 1500 staff to propel earnings growth

Most Commented

Bubble wrap could send lab costs packing

23 July 2014 Research

news image

Potential bubbles up across wide range of uses as storage and test vessels, especially for poor countries

Relativity behind mercury's liquidity

21 June 2013 Research

news image

First evidence that relativistic effects are indeed responsible for mercury's low melting point