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Chapter 2 2500 Years of Observations, Deductions, Models and Geoethics: Global Perspective

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1
Department of Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics, Rösundavägen 17, 13336 Saltsjöbaden, Sweden.
*Corresponding author: E-mail: morner@pog.nu;
Chapter 2
Print ISBN: 978-93-89562-86-6, eBook ISBN: 978-93-89562-87-3
2500 Years of Observations, Deductions, Models
and Geoethics: Global Perspective
Nils-Axel Mörner
1*
DOI:
10.9734/bpi/ireges/v1
ABSTRACT
It all began with observations. With Ovidius, changes and metamorphoses were incorporated in the
ancient “scientific” knowledge. Aristotle’s was to formulate the world’s first model claiming that the
Earth was in the planetary centre. This model fooled the world for 1800 years. There is a danger in
ruling models. The nuclear waste handling and the global warming scenario are two such modern
ruling models, both of which are here challenged because of observational facts. Geoethics calls for
an increased respect for observational facts. Observation–interpretation–conclusion must be the base
and backbone for science today, as it has been in the past.
Keywords: Observations; ovidius; the sun in the centre; models; nuclear waste; global warming; solar
cycles; sea level changes; geoethics.
ABBREVIATIONS
ACIA: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment; DRD: Dry Rock Deposition (nuclear waste repository;
IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; LOD: Length of Day (Standard Method of
Measuring Earth’s Rotation); WDD: Wet Deep Disposal (Nuclear Waste Repository).
1. INTRODUCTION
We learn from the Past, observe the Present and try to predict the Future. The guiding rule in science
has always been “observation, interpretation and conclusion” in a strict sequence of these three
successive steps. In recent years, however, something new has emerged, viz. “idea, modelling and
often very firm statements of truth”. Sometimes, we may even question geoethics. Therefore it seems
pertinent to consider some of our own historical steps though the last 2500 years with respect to
“geoscience”.
This paper was first published in Bol. Soc. Geol. It. in 2006 [1], here in updated and extended version.
2. THE ANCIENT OBSERVATION
“In the beginning were the observations, and the observations became flesh and took place among
us”, we may travesty “the word” in the Bible. And so it was; people observed their surroundings and
events that took place, and formed their interpretations, which became some sort of common
knowledge. Often the explanations were given in the acts of gods. We note such stories from all over
the globe.
In the Nordic Asa Creed, thunderstorms were explained in terms of the god Thor throwing his
hammer, and earthquakes in terms of violent shaking and fracturing caused by the howling of the
giant Fenris wolf, which was said to be chained inside the mountains [2].
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Formerly glaciated areas are littered by erratic blocks, often very large and impressive. Many are
resting upon postglacial clay. This was noted by ancient Swedish farmers. They understood that the
blocks had come in place at a reasonable late stage. Only giants would have been able to lift them. In
their imagination, the forest was the home of giants. So the chain of “logic” was completed; (1)
observation: The blocks resting on clay, (2) interpretation: Thrown in place recently, and (3) theory:
The giants tried to hit the churches when they heard the bells ringing. Today, we substitute the giants’
action for a more realistic ice rafting from drifting icebergs at the end of the Ice Age. In both cases,
however, observations are in the centre.
In similar ways, explanations of natural phenomena appeared in tribes and groups of people, and it
became a vivid part of the cultural heritage.
With Ovidius (43 BC to AD 17) a new observationally based dimension entered into the human
understanding of its environment; viz. the changes and metamorphoses. This was the reason why we,
at the 32
nd
International Geological Congress in Firenze in 2004, devoted a special symposium, the
“Ovidius symposium”, to the “2000 years anniversary of Global Changes”. The key sentence (in
Metamorphoses XV: 262-272) reads as follows (translation [3] with recent polishing).
I have myself seen what once was most solid ground disappear into the sea,
and I have heard of land risen out off the sea;
and sea-shells have been found far from the ocean
and an ancient anchor on a mountain top;
and a former level plain was turned into a valley by the flew of water,
and a mountain was levelled by erosion to a plain,
and a former swampy marsh is now dry land
and what was dry land is now a marshy pool.
Here nature sends forth new fountains, there seals them off,
and stirred by quaking in the ground rivers spring forth or dried run out
In Ovidius’ own writing “vidi ego” (I have myself seen) stands against “vidi” in the next line implying the
opposite to “myself seen”. Therefore, I translated it as “and I have heard of”. In the first case, he is
probably referring to the subsidence of the temple outside Rome. In the second case, he has heard
about uplift in some region – for me, I take it possibly to refer to the Fennoscandian uplift.
3. THE EVER FIRST MODEL AND ITS EFFECT ON FREE-THINKING
In the Greece settlement in today’s SW Turkey, a wonderful, free, natural philosophy flourished
around the cities of Ephesos, Miletos and Kos. In their understanding of the planetary system, the Sun
was where is should be, i.e. in the centre (Fig. 1). With Socrates, Platon and especially Aristotle’s
things changed. The Earth was placed in the centre and the Sun was proclaimed to move around the
Earth. Aristotle’s presented a unified model – the ever first model – of the planetary and celestial
mechanics. Everything was explained by movements of the planetary and celestial bodies along 56
independent circular paths. Ptolemaios (~170 BC) was later to extend and improve “the model”.
A few clever, free-thinking persons like Anaxagoras and Aristarkos, objected and argued that the Sun
must be in the centre, but they were rapidly overruled by “the master’s model”, which no one was to
question.
The Aristotle’s–Ptolemaios model was adopted by the Church because the Earth was in the centre,
just where the Church wanted it to be.
It took about 1800 until reality caught up with the model illusion and Nicolaus Copernicus, in 1543,
presented his outstanding observational facts indicating that the Sun was in the centre and the
planets, including the Earth, were forced to circle around the Sun (Fig. 1). Still, the Church refused to
accept the truth. Giordano Bruno was burned to death in 1600, and Galileo Galilei had to deny the
facts in 1633.
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Fig. 1. Changing opinion of the centre of our planetary system during 2700 years. It took some
1800 years before the ruling model of Aristotle’s could be dismissed by the observationally
based results of Copernicus in 1543 (cf. [4,5])
4. FROM INTELLECTUALISM TO EMPIRISM AND FINALLY MODELLING
The Renascence meant a quite thorough re-vitalisation of art and science after the long Medieval
period dominated by religion and mysticism. In the last 500 years we see remarkable achievements;
first dominated by intellectualism (thinking, calculation, new ideas) and, since about 1750, dominated
by empirism and rationalism (observations, measurements, experiments) as further discussed
elsewhere [6,7]. Carl von Linné may be regarded as the front person in the opening of nature for
observations, interpretations and systematisation. Much of the foundation of modern sciences
(chemistry, physics, biology, geology, climatology) was lied down in the second half of the 18
th
century
and the first half of the 19
th
century [7]. In the last decades, we may see the appearance and
uncontrolled growth of modelling, and we may feel a growing hope of, at least, some intellectualism
and observational-based common sense.
In the present paper, I will confine my discussion to two actual example of what may be called “mega-
models”, viz. the nuclear waste handling and the global warming scenario by IPCC [8].
5. NUCLEAR WASTE PROBLEMS
In the nuclear energy programme, the role of geology may be summarized as (1) “whispering” in the
case of nuclear power plant location (2) “proposing” in the case of low and medium-level nuclear
waste deposition, and (3) “deciding” in the case of handling and deposition of high-level nuclear waste
(which remains toxic for hundreds of thousands of years).
The Swedish and Finnish nuclear energy agencies proudly proclaim that nuclear waste can be stored
in the bedrock for hundreds of thousands of years under “full safety” and “no problems”. Such a
statement is, of course, against common sense. It is to extend predictions “in absurdum” [9] and later
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extended in [10-13]. All efforts and all arguments are devoted to the support of the idea that a closed
repository 500 m down in the bedrock will remain intact for a period of, at least, 100,000 thousand
years. Again model scenarios takes over and leave observational facts and common sense behind.
The truth is that the concept of a closed bedrock repository violates basic geological knowledge.
There is no safety to be guaranteed for those immense time periods [9-13]. Whilst Sweden today is
characterised by a low to moderately-low seismic activity, it was, during the deglacial phase,
characterised by a very high to super-high seismic activity, in frequency as well as in magnitude,
which is well established by observational facts of postglacial faulting, fracturing, bedrock and
sediment deformations, liquefaction, tsunamis and methane venting tectonics by members of the
Institute of Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics at Stockholm University (papers [14-52], Ph.D.-theses
[53-55], international excursions [56-58] and others (e.g. [59-60]). In such a high-seismic environment
– to be repeated at future glaciation periods there can be no safe repository in the bedrock [9-13].
Therefore, it is an urgent need of a total reconsideration of the mode of handling the high-level nuclear
waste [9-10,61-68].
Instead of a closed repository below the groundwater level, we propose a dry rock deposit (DRD) as
illustrated in Fig. 2 and further discussed elsewhere [9,10,63,64]. A DRD-repository is, of course, well
locked preventing unwanted intrusion, at the same time, the waste remains accessible for reparation,
transmutation and even utilisation [64]. Artificial fracture zones keep the repository dry. At the same
time, these fracture zones offer increased seismic protection.
Fig. 2. Comparison between a dry DRD repository and a wet WDD repository of KBS-3 type [2]
If we seriously consider available observational facts in Nature itself [63], the KBS-3 method would not
have a chance to fulfil the requirements of acceptable safety over 100,000 years. The KBS-3 method
is, indeed, a true “dead end” and should be dismissed; the sooner the better. If there ever will be a
way forward, it lies in innovations and reconsideration. Hence, the high-level nuclear waste must for
the moment remain accessible and controllable (like in the Fig. 2 DRD repository: [64]).
Nuclear power was not a technology for the late 20
th
century – nor is it today: it is still being run under
unsafe conditions and a constantly increasing amount of highly toxic nuclear waste. Only in the future
may the situation change so that the waste can be used or destroyed, but this calls for an accessible
deposition in a DRD repository (Fig. 3) of presently accumulated nuclear waste [63].
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Nuclear power rests on the production of plutonium (Pu), the probably most horrible element on Earth,
with its anti-life conditions lasting for at least 100,000 years [63,66,67]. It is weird when the
proponents of the global change issue claim that CO
2
is even more dangerous. In fact, CO
2
is a
harmless molecule – the molecule of life. It has minute to almost negligible effects on Earth’s climate
[69].
Fig. 3. Nuclear reactors are all run under unsafe conditions [63]. The hope for the future lies in
innovations, consideration of available facts and geoethics. In the meantime, we can do
nothing but see to that the high-level nuclear waste is stored under accessible and
controllable conditions; i.e. in a DRD repository [64]
6. THE GLOBAL WARMING ISSUE
Today, IPCC’s climate-modelling totally rules the entire world [70]. Still, it is based on very shaky
ground [71] including errors, falsifications and misinterpretations. Sea level, for example, is by no
means in a globally rising mode.
Climate is becoming increasingly warmer we hear almost every day. This is what has become known
as “Global Warming”. The idea of IPCC [8,70] is that there is a linear relationship between CO
2
increase in the atmosphere and global temperature. The fact, however, is that temperature has
constantly gone up and down. From 1850 to 1970, we see an almost linear relationship with Solar
variability (e.g. [72]); not CO
2
. For the last 30 years, our data sets are so contaminated by personal
interpretations and personal choices (i.e. “manipulations” or “adjustments”) that it is almost impossible
to sort up the mess in reliable and unreliable data.
In the IPCC-scenario, we will face a rapidly increasing temperature in the near future, which will cause
an opening of the Arctic Basin [73]). Such a view implies that we totally neglect the solar influence
[71].
The fact is that the climatic changes during the last 600 years include cold periods around 1450, 1690
and 1815 that correlate with the Spörer, Maunder and Dalton Grand Solar Minima [74-76]. The driving
cyclic solar forces can easily be extrapolated into the future (Fig. 4). This would call for a new cold
period or “Little Ice Age” to occur at around 2040-2050 [77] in totally contrasts to the IPCC-scenario.
The Solar influence is simply kept out of the Global Warming concept. It is high time to bring the Sun
back into the centre.
In the global warming concept, it has been constantly claimed that there will be a causal rise in sea
level; a rise that already is in an accelerating mode, in the near future to cause extensive and
disastrous flooding of low-lying coastal areas and islands. Is this facts or fiction, what lies behind this
idea, and, especially, what do the true international sea level specialists think [78-82]. Personally, I
had to evaluate the last Assessment report (AR6) as “A remarkable lobbying product for the IPCC -
But a document failing to fulfil scientific standards” [83].
The recording and understanding of past changes in sea level, and its relation to other variables
(climate, glacial volume, gravity potential variations, rotational changes, ocean current variability,
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evaporation/precipitation changes, etc.) are the keys to sound estimates of future changes in sea level
[84]. When I was president of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution,
1999-2003, we paid special attention just to this question; i.e. the proposed rise in sea level and its
relation to observational reality. We discussed the issue at five international meetings and by Web-
networking [85]. Our best estimate for the next century was +10 cm +10 cm [84,85], later revised by
myself to +5 cm +15 cm [78,79,84,86-88].
Fig. 4. The main Grand Solar cycles in the last 600 years with observed ocean circulation
pattern at maxima and minima, and the expected extension into the future [74]. At Solar
minima NW Europe, the North Atlantic and the Arctic experienced cold phases known as
«Little Ice Ages». By year 2040-2050, a new Grand Solar Minimum is to be expected [77], and
with a new cold phase over the Arctic and NW Europe
It is true that sea level rose in the order of 10-11 cm from 1850 to 1940 as a function of Solar
variability and related changes in global temperature and glacial volume [89-90]. From 1940 to 1970,
it stopped rising, maybe even fell a little. In the last 50 years, global sea level seems to have been
varying between +1.1 ±0.2 mm/yr and ± 0.0 mm/yr [87-88,91-93] as illustrated in Fig. 5.
The five points in Fig. 5 refer to: (1) ±0.0 mm/yr, the value obtained from many global test
sites [91,94]; the Maldives, Bangladesh, Goa in the Indian Ocean, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Kiribati,
Majuro in the Pacific, Surinam-Guyana in NE South America, Venice in the Mediterranean, (2) +0.25
± 0.19 mm/yr, the mean of 170 PSMSL tide gauge stations having a length of more than 60 years
[95], (3) +0.55 ± 0.10 mm/yr, the revised satellite altimetry values of [91], (4) +1.0 ± 0.1 mm/yr, the
eustatic component the North Sea, Kattegatt and Baltic region [87,88,94], and (5) +1.14 mm/yr, the
mean of 184 tide gauge records scattered all over the globe selected by [96] for their global sea
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level analyses. This value is too high, however, because many sites used represent subsiding delta
areas [91].
Fig. 5. The spectrum of sea level (modified from [91]). The five points provide a
congruent picture: sea level is globally varying between ±0.0 and +1.0 mm/yr (0.5 ± 0.5
mm/yr). Only the estimate by the IPCC [70] is far above “hanging in the air”
Fig. 6. The new sea level curve of the Maldives [98,99]. Age in C14-years BP with a «sea
correction» of –350 years [98]. The fluctuations observed represent ocean dynamics forces;
not glacial eustasy [98]. In the 1970s, sea level fell by 20-30 cm [97] and has remained virtually
constant since then without any general «rise» in sea level as claimed in the IPCC-scenarios
[8,70]
From 2000, we were running a special international sea level project in the Maldives [85,97] including
six field sessions and numerous radiocarbon dates. Our record for the last 5200 years is given in Fig.
6 [98,99]. There are no signs of any on-going sea level rise. It seems all to be a myth. The same
results are obtained in Bangladesh [100], Goa (India) (101), Fiji [102,103] and Ouvéa Island [104].
The same also applies for the famous records of Tuvalu and Venice and satellite altimetry [78,88,94].
The proposed global sea level rise by the IPCC [70] in the order of 3.3 mm/yr is not endorsed by
observational facts: on the contrary, it is revealed as incorrect [91,92,93]. The idea of a present
acceleration in sea level rise [8, 70] is not confirmed at a single point on the globe [82,83], and where
proposed, a closer examination of available data always reveals direct interpretational errors [82,105].
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Observational data do not support the IPCC scenario of a globally rising sea level. Instead, a
completely new picture has emerged termed “rotational eustasy”. It is based on observational fact in
the Indian Ocean (the Maldives, Bangladesh, Goa and other sites) and in the Pacific (Fiji, Ouvéa and
other sites) providing a congruent picture of a high sea level in the 17
th
century, a low sea level in the
18
th
century, a high sea level in the early 19
th
century, an about 20 cm fall in the mid 20
th
century
(1955-1970), and a stable sea level in the last 50-70 years [106-110].
This implies quite different – rather opposed – sea level changes in the equatorial oceanic region and
the northern hemisphere region (Fig. 7). Whilst the equatorial region is dominated by rotational
eustasy, the northern hemisphere regions are dominated by glacial eustasy [106-108].
Of course, this implies a revolution in sea level research [108]. It is fundamental that this “revolution”
[106] emerged out of quite simple and straightforward observational facts [107,108].
Fig. 7. Sea level changes in the last 500 years (from [108]). A: the equatorial curve [106-108],
which is dominated by rotational eustasy (expansion/contraction of the equatorial bulge as a
function of changes in Earth’s rate of rotation [106]). Red star marks a tsunami event in the
Indian Ocean (e.g. [101]). B: the northwest European sea level curve dominated by climate and
glacial eustasy
7. FUTURE PERSPECTIVES AND GEOETHICS
Scientific progress has always been driven by hard work, sharpness and unbound curiosity. This is
our true scientific resource, and it must be the driving forces also in the future. This calls for increased
independence of individual scientists and scientific organisations. Ruling models must not take over
as guiding tool. Even ruling scientific paradigm must be questioned and tested. Freedom, indeed, is
the true ground for creativity. Integrity – besides knowledge, of course – is the tool for further
achievements.
It is vital that those who have insight into a problem also stand up for that knowledge; in writing and
talking. This is a matter of geoethics. Ruling models have a tendency also to attract “subscribers”; not
because of conviction but because of personal benefit this is to be condemned from a geoethical
point of view [111].
Respect for observational facts and curiosity to learn new things are desperately needed to guide
science forward in a sound and creative way.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This paper leads its origin in the “Ovidius’ Symposium” at the 32
rd
IGC in Firenze in 2004. This
symposium was organized by Carlo Forese Wezel and myself in order to celebrate “the 2000 year
anniversary of Global Change”. The discussions were deep and vivid. This is a revised and updated
version of the original paper in Boll. Soc. Geol. It. [1].
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COMPETING INTERESTS
Author has declares that no competing interests exist.
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50. Mörner NA. Liquefaction structures from a high-magnitude paleoseismic event at about 12,400
C14-years BP in southern Sweden. Open Journal of Earthquake Research. 2017;6(4):216-227.
51. Mörner NA, Sjöberg R. Merging the concepts of pseudo Karst and Paleoseismicity in Sweden
into a unified theory on the formation of fractures, fracture caves and angular block heaps.
International Journal of Speleology. 2018;47(3):393-405.
52. Mörner NA. Sediment deformation due to paleoseismic events. Open Journal of Earthquake
Research (OJER). 2019;8:313-331.
53. Sjöberg R. Bedrock caves and fractured rock surfaces in Sweden. Occurrence and origin.
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55. Sun G. The characters of magnetic records of deformed soft sediments with special emphasis
on deformations due to earthquakes, PhD-thesis 10, Stockholm Univ., P&G. 2005;10:7-122.
56. Mörner NA. Sweden excursion: Sea level changes, uplift, paleoseismicity, climate, coastal
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59. Lagerbäck R, Sundh M. Early holocene faulting and paleoseismicity in Northern Sweden.
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60. Jacobsson M, Björck S, O’Regan M, Flodén T, Greenwood SL, Swärd H. Major earthquake at
the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in Lake Vättern, southern Sweden. Geology. 2014;42:379–
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61. Mörner NA. From 100,000 BP to 100,000 AP. Geol. Fören. Stockh. Förh. 1992;114:176-7.
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66. Mörner NA. Nuclear power and radioactive contamination. Journal of Environmental Protection,
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67. Mörner NA. Energy and environment: General views with emphasis on nuclear power, CO
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68. Mörner NA. Nacka Tingsrätt M 1333-11: Synpunkter när det gäller metodval, platsval och
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75. Mörner NA. Arctic environment by the middle of this century. Energy & Environment. 2011;
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76. Mörner NA. Solar wind, earth’s rotation and changes in terrestrial climate. Physical Review &
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81. Mörner NA. Sea level is not rising. Science and Public Policy Inst. (SPPI). SIPP Reprint Series.
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108. Mörner NA. Biology and shore morphology: Keys to proper reconstruction of sea level changes.
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Biography of author(s)
Nils-Axel Mörner
Department of Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics, Rösundavägen 17, 13336 Saltsjöbaden, Sweden.
He completed his Ph.D. thesis in 1969 in Quaternary Geology with emphasis on Marine Geology at Stockholm University,
Sweden. Since then he has held a front position in the science of sea level changes, and was in 2008 awarded “The Golden
Condrite of Merits” from Algarve University “for his irreverence and contribution to our understanding of sea level change”. He
found and coined “the Gothenburg Excursion” (1971), and built up the Stockholm Paleomagnetic Laboratory. He began
assessing solar-terrestrial questions in the 1980s and Solar Wind effects in the 1990s. He headed the INTAS project on
Geomagnetism & Climate (1997-2003). He has been an editor of several books: Earth Rheology, Isostasy and Eustasy (Wiley,
1980), Climate Change on a Yearly to Millennial Basis (Kluwer, 1984), Paleoseismicity of Sweden (P&G-print, 2003), The
Tsunami Threat: research and technology (InTech, 2011), Pattern in Solar Variability, their Planetary Origin and Terrestrial
Impact (PRP, 2013), Geochronology: methodology and case studies (InTech, 2014), Planetary Influence on the Sun and the
Earth, and a Modern Book-Burning (Nova, 2015). He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Geology at Western
University, London, Canada (1969/70), consultant in Physics at Instituto Fisico in Salvador, Brazil (1979), and guest scientist at
the Department Geologie Quatarnaire in Marseill, France (1980/81). He also held a personal associate professorship at the
Swedish National Research Council (1978-2005) and was head of the department of Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics at
Stockholm University (1991-2005). He has personal field experiences from 60 different countries. He has published several
hundreds of research papers (this paper is numbered 687). For an autobiography, see [112].
_________________________________________________________________________________
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DISCLAIMER
This chapter is an extended version of the article published by the same author(s) in the following journal.
Boll. Soc. Geol. It., 125, 2006.
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