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Gnome takes on weighty science issue

By Jasmine, 4 September 2012 News

Gnome on a boat on the water

Kern the gnome checks his weight in London.
Image: Kern Gnome Experiment/Flickr

Written by Alice Ryder

A gnome‑madic garden gnome named Kern is travelling around the world – from Sydney to Antarctica, to a research laboratory two kilometres underground – to help measure a quirk in the science of gravity.

Kern is being sent around the world with a set of very precise scales. Strangely, he weighs a slightly different amount in different places. He weighed 307.8 grams in Sydney and 309.82 grams in Antarctica. This weight increase isn’t because he’s been eating gnome‑treats. It’s actually because weight is dependent on gravity, and gravity varies in different places around the world.

If scientists want to talk about how much stuff is in something, they will talk about its mass. Mass doesn’t depend on where you are; if you went to the Moon, you would have the same mass as you do on Earth. However, you would weigh less on the Moon, because the force of the Moon’s gravity is less than the force of gravity attracting you to Earth.

Kern’s adventure is helping to show that the force of gravity varies a little in different places around the world. The main reason for this variation is that Earth isn’t a perfect sphere; it bulges out a bit in the middle. This means gravity pulls on Kern more near the Earth’s poles – making him heavier – than at the equator.

You can follow Kern as he goes where gnome‑man has gone before.

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2 comments

  1. I tried to like the gnome story, but it didn’t work. Do I need to be logged in to facebook perhaps?

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    1. Thanks for hitting the like button! It connects to your Gravatar, rather than linking to Facebook. You can find out more about Gravatar and how the like button works here: http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/like-a-post

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