Omni remembered

Paul Collins reminisces about Omni magazine, defunct now for 13 years. I used to love that magazine and its hearty hash of science, science fiction, and what we’d now call woo:

That mix of sci-fi and science reporting was telling. Omni's science coverage was built on a sturdy tripod of space exploration, medicine, and computing, but always with a certain fondness for speculative woo-woo. Editor Robert Weil has recalled Guccione's fascination with "stuff on parapsychology and U.F.O.'s," which accounts for the items on alien interference in the Yom Kippur War, a haunted pizza factory, and psychics using tarot cards "to energize their pineal glands." These lived in the fire alarm-red "Antimatter" section, though these Antimatter particles increasingly mingled with the Matter in the rest of the magazine. For a surprisingly long time, this mixture of Matter and Antimatter didn't quite blow up.

If you never read it, you may not get the appeal – but as the article notes, there were serious interviews with science fiction authors, futurists and scientists, and real science articles. It was like the Studio 54 of science journalism.

I had no idea at the time why it went away, but die it did, and Collins has the whole weird story. I did, after my teenage years, get the feeling that one would never get ahead in science taking most of that stuff seriously.

UPDATE (2010-01-17): What the skeptics call woo isn’t, surprisingly, in the Online Slang Dictionary, which has rather a different definition of woo.