The stars and beyond

TRAVEL SMARTS

April 29, 2001

"Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe," a traveling exhibit developed by Baltimore's Space Telescope Science Institute and the Smithsonian Institution, stops nearest to Baltimore this summer during a visit to North Carolina's Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

The exhibit showcases new images captured by the giant telescope -- including galaxies, planets, black holes and exploding stars -- and also looks at the methods scientists use to understand the universe.

Visitors get a minicourse in the Hubble's inner workings, and there's an interactive display that simulates what it's like to repair the telescope while floating in zero gravity. Other areas explore the formation of the solar system and how scientists determine the age of stars. Visitors can guess the ages of stars, predict the outcome of a cosmic collision and shoot virtual comets at Jupiter.

The exhibition, which has no permanent home, runs from June 2 through Sept. 3 in Raleigh. Museum admission is free. For more information, call 919-733-7450 or go to www.naturalsciences.org.

For details about the traveling exhibit, visit http: / / hstexhibit.stsci.edu.

SURVIVING A TRAVEL NIGHTMARE

Finally, a definitive guidebook for surviving all those mishaps that can happen while you're traveling. You know the ones: runaway camels, volcanic eruptions, UFO abductions.

"The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel" by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht (Chronicle; $15), due out in May, covers them all using a neat, illustrated approach.

Step by step, the book tells you how to survive a plane crash on water, jump from a moving train, escape from a car hanging over the edge of a cliff, cross a piranha-infested river, live through a mugging -- or even foil a UFO abduction. The book details how to get out of 44 sticky situations, and has 15 pages of general travel strategies, including certain gestures to avoid in certain countries. (For example, do not make the "OK" sign in France unless you're trying to be insulting.)

The survival handbook's sources seem pretty reliable (although we're reserving judgment on the UFOs). Authorities in a variety of fields were consulted, including the U.S. Army and State Department, security specialists, pilots, railroad engineers and exotic-creature zoologists.

Great natural wonders

The editors of Randmcnally.com, the Internet version of the famous map makers, put their heads together to identify the top five national parks based on the "hidden gems" of each. Here's what they came up with, and why they included each park on the list:

* Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota -- High concentration of wildlife rarely seen in the lower 48 states, including bald eagles, osprey, wolf packs, black bears and beavers.

* Lassen Volcanic National Park, California -- Features each of the four types of volcanoes found in the world.

* Biscayne National Park, Florida -- Almost all of its 180,000 acres are underwater and home to more than 200 species of fish.

* Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico -- One of the world's largest cave systems, with a "Big Room" 1,800 feet long and 225 feet tall.

* Capitol Reef, Utah -- A rugged, 100-mile stretch of rainbow-hued cliffs, domes, arches and spires.

Going straight to the top

Left sitting on the runway for hours? Bags lost again? Rude flight attendants? Take your complaints to the top: the CEOs. The National Airlines Passengers Coalition has made getting U.S. airlines' corporate heads' contact information a lot easier by posting it online (www.NAPConline.org). Peeved passengers can also call 877-999-1131 for CEO addresses and telephone numbers.

-- Tricia Bishop

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