Good on science — geography, not so much

It’s worthwhile taking a look at’s piece and online picture gallery on the conversion of the Homestake Gold Mine to the Sanford Underground Laboratory, a physics lab that, among other things, will help look for so-called dark matter. It seems, though, that the science and uniqueness of the site left the reporter needing to brush up on her geography.

According to the second paragraph of the story, the mine is “nestled in the town that inspired the HBO drama Deadwood.” Perhaps that is a bit of literary license (in a nonfiction piece) but as the writer also took some of the pictures with the article, she should know — as does anyone vaguely familiar with the area or the mine — it is located in Lead, not Deadwood. Although Lead and Deadwood adjoin each other, they are separate towns.

I also might not use the term “nestled” to describe the mine. As one of the pictures she took shows, much of the above ground portion of the mind is clearly visible on top of one of what passes for mountains here. (As an aside, my wife is from Lead and her father worked for Homestake until his retirement many years ago. The structure shown in that picture, known as the Yates Shaft, could be seen from their living and dining room windows.) And as the picture accompanying this post shows, nestled doesn’t do justice to the removal of millions and millions of tons of another mountain between the Yates Shaft and downtown Lead known as the Open Cut. The site of the original Homestake lode discovered in 1876, the Open Cut was abandoned from 1945 to 1983 when increasing gold prices led to mining it again and the relocation of the state highway adjoining it.

So I’ll give Wired and the reporter an “A” for paying attention to an undoubtedly unique science lab. But they may need to improve their sign and map reading skills.

UPDATE: Geographically challenged reporters may be the last of the lab’s problems. It also now appears to have financial challenges.

Geography is only physics slowed down and with a few trees stuck on it.

Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

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