What can a traveling garden gnome tell us about shifts in Earth's gravity?
A traveling gnome is helping scientists study one of Earth's little-appreciated quirks: Why your weight changes depending on where you live.
Tue, Mar 20 2012 at 4:46 AM
Looking to lose a little weight? You might want to try moving somewhere closer to the equator.
That's one lesson currently being taught by a charismatic little garden gnome named Kern who has been traveling the world in an effort to help scientists measure how Earth's gravity shifts depending on where you are, reports New Scientist.
Because Earth is shaped more like a bumpy potato than a sphere, the force of gravity is distributed differently across the surface of the planet. For instance, Earth generally bulges at its waistline, so if you live along the equator, you'll likely be further from the planet's core than you would be if you lived at the poles. This means you'll actually weigh less living in, say, Hawaii, than you would in Antarctica.
The Earth bulges inconsistently at many different points, though, so it really depends on exactly where you are.
The difference in weight wouldn't be much — it probably wouldn't register on standard weighing scales — but it can make a big difference when it comes to comparing certain kinds of objects or precise amounts of chemicals that are being traded from different parts of the world.
To better understand how significant these weight changes are around the world, a Bavarian scale manufacturing company called Kern & Sohn has enlisted the help of Kern the traveling gnome, who is currently embarking on a global experiment, accompanied by a set of scales, to officially register these alterations in Earth's gravity. So far Kern has visited Lima, Peru; Mumbai, India; Mexico City; Durban, South Africa; San Francisco; New Caledonia in the Pacific; Sydney and even Antarctica.
Of those locations, the gnome was heaviest in Antarctica and lightest in Mumbai, and his weight has shifted from between 307.56 grams to 309.82 grams across the locations measured so far.
If you're a scientist and want to find out how much your weight might be affected by your location on Earth, you can request a visit from Kern the Gnome by filling out a form at the Gnome Experiment's website.
The website also offers a promotional video for the experiment, which you can view here:
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