The distance from the surface of Earth to the center is 3,959 miles, which isn't so very far. It has been calculated that if you sunk a well to the center and dropped a brick into it, it would take only forty-five minutes for it to hit the bottom (though at that point it would be weightless since all the Earth's gravity would be above and around it rather than beneath it). Our own attempts to penetrate toward the middle have been modest indeed. One or two South African gold mines reach to a depth of two miles, but most mines on Earth go no more than about a quarter of a mile beneath the surface. If the planet were an apple, we wouldn't yet have broken through the skin. Indeed, we haven't even come close.
Until slightly under a century ago, what the best-informed scientific minds knew about Earth's interior was not much more than what a coal miner knew—namely, that you could dig down through soil for a distance and then you'd hit rock and that was about it. Then in 1906, an Irish geologist named R. D. Oldham, while examining some seismograph readings from an earthquake in Guatemala, noticed that certain shock waves had penetrated to a point deep within the Earth and then bounced off at an angle, as if they had encountered some kind of barrier. From this he deduced that the Earth has a core. Three years later a Croatian seismologist named Andrija Mohorovicic was studying graphs from an earthquake in Zagreb when he noticed a similar odd deflection, but at a shallower level.