February 5, 2013

How Timothy Olyphant Is Leading Me To Science

I am an English nerd by training. I have two degrees in English, I’ve taught high school and college, and I think getting paid to read and write is one of the greatest things that could have happened to me. I’m never happier than when my face is buried in a book and I’m learning new things.

But lately, I’m becoming quite the science geek as well, and it is entirely the fault of Timothy Olyphant.

Now, don’t break my heart and tell me you don’t know who he is. He is one of the finest, sexiest, most versatile actors on the screen today. *fans myself to cool off* Currently, he makes my heart throb on “Justified,” an FX show inspired by an Elmore Leonard short story. I mean really, what could be sexier than a good-looking man with a deep Kentucky accent, a ten-gallon hat he wears so nonchalantly and a BIG gun he isn’t afraid to use? He has played a bad guy, a good guy, an alien protector, a hit man, and even done voice work on cartoons like “Archer.”

But how did this, albeit stunning, actor lead me to science? I’m getting there… patience!

In 2004, before I moved to the High Plains/Wild West area of the country, Olyphant played the iconic Seth Bullock on the short-lived HBO series, “Deadwood.” That’s where he caught my attention, and the series was so amazingly well done, and so deeply researched that the entire Deadwood, South Dakota saga grabbed me. The bigger than life lives of Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, Al Swearingen and Seth Bullock just fascinated me. I did research about the characters, the places, the legends and the lives of these amazing men and women who braved hostile natives, inhospitable living conditions and brutal winters for a chance at gold.

This led me to the Homestake Mine, in what is currently Lead, SD. The mine was started by the Manuel brothers and Hank Harney in 1876. By June 1877, George Hearst bought the claim for $70,000. Hearst had mining interests in Missouri, California, Nevada, Utah and Montana. You probably know more about his son, William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnet. That provided another connection for me, as my brother has managed a couple of smaller Hearst papers in Texas.

Back to Timothy Olyphant and science, the history of the Homestake Mine and the sheer ruthlessness of the owners and those who settled these Black Hills towns fascinated me. I must have watched that series ten times the year before I moved to Nebraska and found myself just two hours south of Deadwood and Lead. Every chance I get, I travel to South Dakota to take in a little more of the history and flavor.

The Homestake Mine is divided into two parts these days. The Homestake Vistor Center has a museum and a surface tour that takes you through the historic town of Lead and teaches you about mining, then and now. I haven’t found my way to that tour yet, but I will. It is seasonal, like many things up here in the Great White North.

Underneath, though, deep inside the original mine is the Sanford Underground Research Facility, where “sensitive physics experiments can be shielded from cosmic radiation.” Mostly, they are doing research into the mysteries of Dark Matter.

Since coming to work for, dark matter and dark energy have become two of my favorite subjects to write about. That is partly because the science involved is so far over my head that I have to do a lot of research to understand, and partly because they suit my need for mystery in my life and in the Universe.

Every once in a while, I check the Sanford Lab website to see if they give tours, because I would love to see the inside of the facility where they research such amazing things. However, I wouldn’t even have a clue they existed if it weren’t for Timothy Olyphant.

And that’s how being a fangirl for one actor can lead your life in a whole new direction… SCIENCE!

Image Credit: Jaguar PS /

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