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OMNI Magazine September 1982


OMNI Magazine September 1982

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If you believe the Wright brothers designed the first airplane, that plastic is a twentieth-century invention, and that brain surgery is a skill known only to modern medicine, Robert Patton’s article on out-of-place artifacts, or “ooparts,” may make you think again. Patton is an antiquarian by hobby and a freelance health and science writer by profession. His work has appeared in such diverse publications as the Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, and Objectif 2000, a Swiss encyclopedia, Patton highlights myriad historical anomalies that, in his own words, “are certain to challenge the conviction of those who believe our knowledge of the past is complete.”

“I wanted to find out more about the ideas behind this one-billion-dollar dream park,” says Tim Onosko, who traveled to Glendale, California, to look at the plans for EPCOT – Walt Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. It is part classroom, part world’s fair, and part amusement park, and it opens next month in Orlando, Florida. WED (for Walter Elias Disney) Enterprises is the entertainment think tank that designed and built EPCOT 15 years after Disney died. It was his associates’ answer to the problem of how to use all that Florida real estate he left behind. “EPCOT is going to be a rich field for Disney watchers to mine,” Onosko says. “I think Disney’s critics will have as much fun with the place as his fans will.” For a behind-the-scenes look at “Tomorrow Lands”.

In this month’s Interview, physicist Hans Bethe explains why we should love nuclear power plants. He reminisces about the good old days at Los Alamos, where he held a key position on the wartime Manhattan Project, and simultaneously looks forward to the future of fusion energy. Recent decades have seen him advising U.S. presidents while working to limit nuclear arms. For the interviewer, physicist T. A. Heppenheimer, this subject is all in the family. During the Forties his mother was secretary to one of the Manhattan Project’s leading mathematicians. Heppenheimer, who is the author of Colonies in Space and an upcoming book on fusion power, shares much in common with Bethe. “We’re both of German descent,” he notes. “We’ve both held positions at the California Institute of Technology. We’re both listed in Who’s Who in the World. However, only Dr. Bethe has won the Nobel Prize.”

“Computer chips are sexy,” says photomicrographer Phillip Harrington, who sought refuge in this Lilliputian world mainly as a diversion from his career as a photojournalist for Look magazine. After far-ranging trips on assignments abroad, Harrington would come home to New York and relax by peering into a microscope and shooting the essence of the small things he saw there. It wasn’t long before he became lost in his electronic labyrinths, and what began as an avocation turned into a full-time profession. His unique photographs of computer chips provide an insider’s view of what goes on at the heart of your pocket calculator, video game, telephone, and friendly neighborhood supermarket scanner.

Two science-fiction writers make their debut in OMNI this month: Michael Swanwick, who was nominated for a Nebula Award earlier this year, and Dan Simmons, a recent winner of the Twilight Zone Magazine Short Story Contest. An encounter with a giant of the modern art movement is the subject of Swanwick’s charming tale “The Man Who Met Picasso” . And telepathy proves to be a blessing for a blind and deaf child in Simmons’s moving story “Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams” . “The theme developed from a summer I spent working with handicapped and retarded children,” says Simmons, who teaches normal sixth-graders when he’s not writing. “The heroism I witnessed there has stayed with me.”