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Gnome weighs up Earth's big questions

Thursday 29 March 2012, 12:53PM

Physicists looking at anomalies in Earth’s gravity have turned an unlikely test subject – a garden gnome named Kern.

The little guy has been shipped around the globe to have himself weighed at locations ranging from Lima, Mumbai and Mexico to Sydney, New Caledonia and the South Pole.

The experiment is a twist on the “travelling gnome” prank, in which a garden ornament is mysteriously stolen, photographed at various locations – with the pictures
posted on the Internet – and then returned home.

The project promotes the wares of a German maker of hi-tech scales, but also has a serious application, by measuring differences in Earth’s gravity that also affect weight.
“Most people don’t realise Earth’s gravity actually varies slightly,” experiment coordinator Tommy Fimpel said.

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“One of the main causes is variations in the shape of the planet. The Earth is actually potato-shaped, so you’ll weigh up to 0.5 per cent more or less, depending on where you go.

“We thought our Gnome Experiment would be a fun way to measure the phenomenon.”
 So far he has weighed most – 309.82 grammes – at the Amundsen-Scott Research Station in Antarctica, where the inertial pull produced by Earth’s rotation is strong.

Follow the adventures of Kern:



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