CERN's Large Hadron Collider had an unexpected and diminutive visitor a couple of weeks ago: Kern the Traveling Gnome. The plucky little ceramic figure has already visited Lima, Mumbai, Mexico, South Africa, San Francisco, New Caledonia, and Sydney, Australia, the South Pole, and SNOLAB, an underground neutrino observatory in Ontario Canada. And now, apparently, he's keen to help out with the ongoing hunt for the Higgs boson.
Here's Kern striking a pose in one of the particle collider's many tunnels:
Kern's journey around the world is sponsored by precision scale company Kern & Sohn, which is teaming up with schools and research stations worldwide to highlight the variations of Earth's gravity. The company got the idea from the "Traveling Gnome Prank," whereby pranksters steal garden gnomes and then send the owners photographs of the ornaments in front of famous sightseeing spots.
But this time there's a scientific twist. Kern's journey is part of an educational effort to demonstrate how weight changes depending on how the strength of gravity varies. Mass, of course, remains constant. So Kern may record different weights at different locations, but he always has the same mass
Kern is mailed to each participating location, carefully packaged with a scale provided by Kern & Sohn. Once he arrives, a volunteer places him on the scale, and his weight is recorded to keep track of the (very) slight variations in the measurements that occur depending on his geographical location. His heaviest recorded weight so far: 309.82 grams, at the South Pole.
You can follow Kern's continuing travels here. Bon voyage, our little gnomic friend! Who knows where his travels will take him next?