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Author's Note: Could you dig a hole all the way to the Earth’s mantle?

As a child in the 1960s, I loved reading comic books, and one of my favorites was the Classics Illustrated version of Jules Verne's novel "Journey to the Center of the Earth." I particularly was fascinated with the cover illustration, in which the characters are floating in the subterranean sea passage that Verne imagined and are under attack by prehistoric sea monsters. The vividness of that image contributed to my disappointment a few years later, when I learned in elementary school science class that the Earth was filled with molten rock, which seemed considerably less interesting.

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