I am a theoretical physicist and a passionate about physics of natural hazards, above all earthquakes.
Since November 2021, I have been working at my PhD project “An integrated approach to mid-term seismic prediction” under the mentorship of Prof. Carlo Doglioni and Dr. Luciano Telesca.
I am interested in understanding how seismicity organizes itself in space and time and, more in general, in its collective physical properties. I focus my research activity on physical modeling using the framework of disordered, critical and complex systems.
My main goal is a deep knowledge of the physics of earthquakes, which ultimately means how large-scale crustal instability develops, in order to get reliable seismic hazard assessment. I also do research in the field of seismotectonic and geodynamics.
I was born in Rome in 1997; I have been so unbelievably lucky to grow up in a city of peerless history and incredible cultural attractiveness. I graduated in Physics at Sapienza University (BSc, 110/110 with honors, thesis: “Una analisi della dinamica crostale”, advisors: Prof. Fulvio Ricci and Prof. Carlo Doglioni) in 2019 while being a student at the Sapienza School for Advanced Studies (SSAS) and in Theoretical physics (MSc, 110/110 with honors) in 2021. My thesis “Near breaking faults” (advisors: Prof. Carlo Doglioni and Prof. Andrea Pelissetto, coadvisor: Dr. Luciano Telesca) introduces a new viewpoint for linking coseismic processes to large-scale seismic phenomena; moreover, it analyses the role of fault stress perturbations to shed a light on the physics of earthquakes.
AWARDS AND HONORS
- AGLC ‘Licio Cernobori’ Award (2022), Trieste, Italy. Motivation: for the presentation “Tectonic setting and fault roughness vs. earthquake double couple“. Il lavoro si propone di mettere in relazione la complessità strutturale e tettonica di una area sismogenica, con le dinamiche che presiedono all’innesco dell’evento sismico. Si tratta di un contributo interessante e con potenziali sviluppi in campo sismologico, soprattutto per quanto riguarda la comprensione dei meccanismi della sorgente nei vari contesti tettonici. La presentazione del lavoro in forma chiara ed esaustiva, sia nella parte metodologica che nella parte di potenziali sviluppi applicativi, unitamente alla qualità scientifica dello stesso, sono stati concordemente apprezzati dalla commissione esaminatrice”
- Merit Certificate “Scienzimpresa – progetto di diffusione scientifica” (2016). Scientific dissemination activities within the project “ScienzaImpresa”
- Romei Prize (ANP, Rome, 2014). The national prize awarded by the Italian Association of Headmasters for my excellent results in High School studies and my contributions for the requalification of the historical archives in some rural villages in Valnerina, Central Italy.
I draw on folk culture, books, philosophers, eminent scientists and intellectuals in general for inspiring my work and actions. Below I list some words of wisdom:
- “The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life” ― Confucius
- “Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution” ― Albert Einstein
- “The cemeteries are full of indispensable men” ― Georges Clemenceau
- “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you” ―Nicholas Klein
- “Nothing is more practical than a good theory” ― Ludwig Boltzmann
- “The most revolutionary thing one can do is always to proclaim loudly what is happening” ― Rosa Luxemburg
- “It’s whacha do with whatcha got that pays off in the end” ― Wise Old Owl in So Dear to My Heart, Walt Disney Pictures, 1948
- “All simple systems are simple all the same; complex systems are complex in their own way” ― modified from Lev Tolstoij
- “Correlation does not imply causation”
- “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” ― Thomas Reid
- “The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea” ― Vladimir Nabokov
- “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future!” ― Mark Twain
- “Testing physically grounded hypotheses is scientific rigor; testing unreliable physical hypotheses is scientific folly”
- “Better a revolutionary moderate than a moderate revolutionary”
- “Models explain data; theories predict them”
- “New ideas? Propose your theory. Few ideas? Do an experiment. No ideas? Use AI”
- “To think is free. Not to think is not”
- “More is different” ― P. W. Anderson
- “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” ― Nelson Mandela
- “In the long run we are all dead” ― J. M. Keynes
- “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light” ― Aristotle
- “If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success” ― James Cameron
- “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love” ― Mother Teresa
- “Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter” ― Benjamin Disraeli
- “You look closely enough, you’ll find that everything has a weak spot where it can break, sooner or later” ― Antony Hopkins in “Fracture” (2007)
- “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success” ― A. G. Bell
- “Of course, it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- “If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trial” ― Heraclitus
- “A serious prophet upon predicting a flood should be the first man to climb a tree. This would demonstrate that he was indeed a seer” ― Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
- “Science begins with doubting traditional textbook assertions” ― Richard Feynman
- “The biggest problem is not to let people accept new ideas, but to let forget the old ones” ― J. M. Keynes
- “Events cannot be predicted until we know more about their causes” ― Freeman Dyson
- “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one” ― Confucius
Earthquake science is a booming field of Earth Sciences with so much to be discovered and understood. It is so exciting! Below I have listed some questions that I think have not been fully addressed yet. I hope that I can contribute to find new answers and to change the way some topics are usually approached.
- The seismic gap hypothesis has failed spectacularly. So, why is it still used?
- Earthquakes occur clustered in time and space over both short and long scales. How can a seismic hazard model ignoring this key property be reliable?
- Is it very meaningful to discriminate between background seismicity and aftershocks (triggered seismicity)?
- The brittle crust belongs to the set of disordered, self-organized, (mainly sub-) critical systems. The spatial and temporal occurrence of seismicity is a mirror of such feature. Why do so many earthquake scientists model seismicity exclusively in the light of classical physics?
- Long-term earthquake clustering suggests seismicity to be a kind of “ripple effect”. Is this compatible with the idea of “seismic cycle”?
- The pre-slip model can be seen as a peculiar, ideal case of cascade model in the limit of a single, homogeneous fault interface. Why is it so frequently invoked for explaining real fault behavior?
- Faults and fractures are strongly interacting fractal objects, whose macroscopic dynamic behavior is mainly controlled by their roughness and structural complexities. Why are they so often modelled as planar non-interacting interfaces also to understand their long-term dynamics?
- The b-value of the Gutenberg-Richter law is the consequence of a long-lasting process; on the other hand, the “average” fault stress is a local property depending on time. What conditions must be fulfilled to justify a connection between fault stress and b-value?
- Behind the idea of b-value is peacefully accepted that the size of seismic events is power-law distributed over a large interval of magnitudes and over a large spatial region with the same value. Anyone can vouch for it?
- Fault slip requires the weakening via a strength drop from a static friction to a dynamic one. Fault weakening occurs at the rupture-front and in the wake of the propagating rupture. While the rupture velocity is of the order of some km/s, fault slip is about m/s at the crack tip. How can frictional weakening being efficient in modulate and control the dynamic evolution of an earthquake?
- How can we conciliate clustering of large earthquakes with elastic rebound? Do we have to?
- Do in-fault and distributed seismicity share common statistical features (e.g., b-value, maximum magnitude, stress drop …)? Differences?
- Are large earthquakes king dragons or just “overgrown” little quakes?
- The b-value, b, is primarily due to the state of fracturing of the brittle crust (e.g., via the Aki’s formula for the fractal dimension of the hypocenters, Df). Df = kb, where k=1÷2. Why is it often forgotten?
- Is moment magnitude estimation homogeneous over large intervals of earthquake sizes? How reliable is it? Are there physical reasons producing biases in calculating it?
- The longer it has been since the last earthquake, the longer the expected time till the next?
- Foreshocks do not correlate in number, duration, and size with the (incoming) mainshock; however, they seem to showcase peculiar clustering properties. A light bulb over someone’s head?
- Are large earthquakes more probable where small events occur?
- Theory suggests that power-law increasing fluctuations of order parameters are expected before mainshocks if a critical/super-critical state develops; conversely, no specific precursor should be observable. So, why are “classical” seismic precursors still invoked?
- Why do so many geoscientists say, “it is not important predicting earthquakes, what we need is prevention”? Neglecting some little, remote usefulness, I just think understanding dynamic instabilities in solids (a.k.a. earthquakes/avalanches …) is the last unsolved problem dated back to Sir. Isaac Newton. As a physicist, it’s enough to deal with the issue 😊.
- Why is breakdown energy G found negative or almost zero for numerous earthquakes? Why do the values of Dc and L used in rate-and-state friction laws show large variability from lab to real fault scales?
- Geodetic inversion suggests that the effective, average friction along fault zones is about 0.01-0.2, while Byerlee’s friction and experiments gives steady-state values of 0.4-0.7. How can we conciliate such contrast without assuming a substantial difference between lab faults and real faults? Sure we can do this?
My scientific pantheon:
Sornette, D. (2006). Critical phenomena in natural sciences: chaos, fractals, self-organization and disorder: concepts and tools. Springer Science & Business Media.
Kagan, Y. Y. (2013). Earthquakes: models, statistics, testable forecasts. John Wiley & Sons.
Stein, S., & Wysession, M. (2009). An introduction to seismology, earthquakes, and earth structure. John Wiley & Sons.
Biswas, S., Ray, P., & Chakrabarti, B. K. (2015). Statistical physics of fracture, breakdown, and earthquake: effects of disorder and heterogeneity. John Wiley & Sons.
Dahlen, F., & Tromp, J. (2021). Theoretical global seismology. In Theoretical Global Seismology. Princeton university press.
My favourite (recent) articles in earthquake science:
- Velasco, A. A., Hernandez, S., Parsons, T. O. M., & Pankow, K. (2008). Global ubiquity of dynamic earthquake triggering. Nature geoscience, 1(6), 375-379.
- Kagan, Y. Y., & Jackson, D. D. (1991). Long-term earthquake clustering. Geophysical Journal International, 104(1), 117-133.
- Sammis, C. G., & Sornette, D. (2002). Positive feedback, memory, and the predictability of earthquakes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99(suppl_1), 2501-2508.
- Salditch, L., Stein, S., Neely, J., Spencer, B. D., Brooks, E. M., Agnon, A., & Liu, M. (2020). Earthquake supercycles and long-term fault memory. Tectonophysics, 774, 228289.
- Nandan, S., Ram, S. K., Ouillon, G., & Sornette, D. (2021). Is seismicity operating at a critical point?. Physical Review Letters, 126(12), 128501.
- Molchan, G., Kronrod, T., & Panza, G. F. (1997). Multi-scale seismicity model for seismic risk. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 87(5), 1220-1229.
- Nie, S., & Barbot, S. (2022). Rupture styles linked to recurrence patterns in seismic cycles with a compliant fault zone. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 591, 117593.
- Liu, Y. K., Ross, Z. E., Cochran, E. S., & Lapusta, N. (2022). A unified perspective of seismicity and fault coupling along the San Andreas Fault. Science advances, 8(8), eabk1167.
- Stein, S., & Liu, M. (2009). Long aftershock sequences within continents and implications for earthquake hazard assessment. Nature, 462(7269), 87-89.
- Mulargia, F., Stark, P. B., & Geller, R. J. (2017). Why is probabilistic seismic hazard analysis (PSHA) still used?. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, 264, 63-75.
- de Geus, T. W., Popović, M., Ji, W., Rosso, A., & Wyart, M. (2019). How collective asperity detachments nucleate slip at frictional interfaces. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(48), 23977-23983.
- Goh, K. I., & Barabási, A. L. (2008). Burstiness and memory in complex systems. EPL (Europhysics Letters), 81(4), 48002.
- Anderson, P. W. (1972). More is different: broken symmetry and the nature of the hierarchical structure of science. Science, 177(4047), 393-396.
- Thakur, P., & Huang, Y. (2021). Influence of fault zone maturity on fully dynamic earthquake cycles. Geophysical Research Letters, 48(17), e2021GL094679.
- Main, I. G. (1995). Earthquakes as critical phenomena: implications for probabilistic seismic hazard analysis. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 85(5), 1299-1308.
- Petrillo, G., Rosso, A., & Lippiello, E. (2022). Testing of the Seismic Gap Hypothesis in a model with realistic earthquake statistics. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, e2021JB023542.
- Goebel, T. H., Kwiatek, G., Becker, T. W., Brodsky, E. E., & Dresen, G. (2017). What allows seismic events to grow big?: Insights from b-value and fault roughness analysis in laboratory stick-slip experiments. Geology, 45(9), 815-818.
- Shcherbakov, R., Zhuang, J., Zöller, G., & Ogata, Y. (2019). Forecasting the magnitude of the largest expected earthquake. Nature communications, 10(1), 1-11.
- Chen, X., Chitta, S. S., Zu, X., & Reches, Z. E. (2021). Dynamic fault weakening during earthquakes: Rupture or friction?. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 575, 117165.
- Buldyrev, S. V., Parshani, R., Paul, G., Stanley, H. E., & Havlin, S. (2010). Catastrophic cascade of failures in interdependent networks. Nature, 464(7291), 1025-1028.
- Bak, P., & Tang, C. (1989). Earthquakes as a self‐organized critical phenomenon. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 94(B11), 15635-15637.
- Rubino, V., Lapusta, N., & Rosakis, A. J. (2022). Intermittent lab earthquakes in dynamically weakening fault gouge. Nature, 1-8.
- Langenbruch, C., Weingarten, M., & Zoback, M. D. (2018). Physics-based forecasting of man-made earthquake hazards in Oklahoma and Kansas. Nature communications, 9(1), 1-10.
- Kagan, Y. Y. (2002). Seismic moment distribution revisited: I. Statistical results. Geophysical Journal International, 148(3), 520-541.
- Rundle, J. B., Turcotte, D. L., Shcherbakov, R., Klein, W., & Sammis, C. (2003). Statistical physics approach to understanding the multiscale dynamics of earthquake fault systems. Reviews of Geophysics, 41(4).