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Gnome far from home in Global Gravity Experiment


Kern the gnome at the South PoleYou would weigh more at the South Pole than at the equator, or even in the UK. That's the scientific theory proven by a globe-trotting gnome called Kern who has just made it to the pole in the latest leg of a worldwide gravity experiment.

In a scientific twist to the well-known Travelling Gnome Prank, the Gnome Experiment's aim is to bring together scientists, schools and the general public in a global investigation into gravity.

Participants receive a flight case containing the one and only gnome, with a set of Kern & Sohn precision scales, adjusted according to local gravity at a Kern calibration laboratory in Balingen, Germany. Once the gnome has been weighed and photographic evidence taken, Kern the gnome is shipped to his next destination.

"Most people don't realise Earth's gravity actually varies slightly," explains Tommy Fimpel, one of the experiment co-ordinators. "One of the main causes is variations in the shape of the planet. Believe it or not, the Earth is actually slightly potato shaped, so you'll weigh up to 0.5% more or less, depending on where you go. We thought our Gnome Experiment would be a fun way to measure the phenomenon."

So far, the jet-setting gnome has travelled with his scales to places as far-flung as Lima, Mumbai, Mexico, South Africa, San Francisco, New Caledonia, Sydney and the South Pole. His next stop is Snolab in Canada, the world's deepest laboratory, 2km below the surface of the Earth. Then Kern the gnome is off to the Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland where they are using the world's largest scientific instrument to hunt for the Higgs Boson, the particle that gives mass to matter. With many more destinations lined-up, Kern is set to become the world's most travelled gnome.

Marie McLane of the United States Antarctic Program said: "I was honoured to welcome Kern the Gnome to the Amundsen-Scott Research Station. His weight here was 309.82g - significantly heavier than at all other sites, partly because at the poles the inertia produced by the Earth's rotation is far stronger."

Albert Sauter, MD of Kern & Sohn, makers of the precision scales, said: "It's amazing to think we're recording a worldwide scientific phenomenon with tools as simple as a set of our scales and a garden gnome. And it's even better to know we're putting gnomes to good use at long last."  

You can track Kern the gnome's progress, volunteer to weigh him and read his blog at

More about Kern &Sohn:

Kern & Sohn, est. 1867, calibrates and distributes some of the world's most precise weights and scales in the world, capable of weighing to seven decimal places - the highest certified accuracy in Europe. This accuracy is particularly critical in the pharmaceuticals and science sectors.

About Kern the Gnome's trip to the South Pole:

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is the American scientific research station on the high plateau of Antarctica. This station is located at the southernmost place on the Earth, the Geographic South Pole, at an elevation of 2,835 meters (9301 feet) above sea level.

It was hoped that Kern would be the first ever Gnome at the South Pole. But Marie McLane explored the base and found five other resident gnomes already living there - these feature on Kern the Gnome's travelling blog.

Experiment write-up with links: 

Aim: If Earth was a perfect sphere of uniform density, then gravity would be consistent. But it's not, which means gravity varies wherever you go. So can we chart those discrepancies using just a basic-range Kern scale and bring a global experiment within reach of schools and volunteering scientists the world over.

Method: We're shipping our Gnome Kit from location to location around the world. Join the experiment and you'll receive:

  • 1x Kern EWB 2.4 Scale Pre-calibrated according to local gravity at Kern HQ, Balingen, Germany.  
  • 1x Kern Gnome The perfect test-subject for two good reasons: Gnomes are already accustomed to travelling the world. They also originate from our homeland, Germany.Made of acrylic to ensure no weight loss or weight gain, unlike traditional porous clay.
  • 1x Lab gloves & 1 x Air duster Important because dust or grease will reduce the accuracy of the results.

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