Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Nomadic Gnome Solving Weighty Problem

By Magdeline Lum

A gnome is travelling the world to test for subtle differences in gravity.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Kern is a gnome that is travelling the world to highlight a quirk of planet Earth. Gravity changes depending on your location on Earth due to the shape of the planet – it is not a perfect sphere. Earth is more like a potato with a middle bulge than a tennis ball.

This bulge means that the north and south poles are closer to the core than places along the Equator. Throw in additional gravity counterbalancing inertia from the spin of the Earth to the situation and it means that you or Kern would weight more at the poles than in Hawaii.

When it comes to comparing the weights of precise amounts from countries around the world, this can become a problem if the scales used are not calibrated to account for local gravity differences. Hence a Bavarian scale manufacturer, Kern & Sohn, is raising awareness of the issue by sending Kern around the world with a set of precision scales to measure the difference.

So far Kern has travelled to Antarctica, where he weighed in heaviest at 309.82 grams at the Amundsen-Scott Research Station, as well as visiting CERN, Tokyo, Mumbai, Callao and Sydney – with more travels to come. Scientists wanting to get involved in the experiment can get more information at, and Kern’s travels can be followed at his...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.