With the distinctive red hourglass pattern on her underside, the black widow spider is readily recognizable to most Southern Californians. A new exhibit at the Palm Springs Desert Museum sheds some light on this creature.
"Black Widow" includes live specimens, giant models, graphic panels and video displays to answer questions about the spider's life and habits. Children can gaze through a microscope at the fang of a black widow, its web and the tiny combs on its legs that it uses to tie up its prey.
Adults can view the informational panels that describe the danger of the spider's venom, the kinds of food it consumes and how the female acquired the moniker of "widow." Of particular interest are statistics on the danger from black widows, compared to other natural dangers. The exhibit runs through Feb. 12. Call (619) 325-7186.
* Society's fascination with--and fear of--science will be explored by Dr. Steven B. Harris in a Skeptics Society lecture, "Frankenstein and the Fear of Science," at 2 p.m. Sunday in Caltech's Baxter Lecture Hall. (818) 794-1301.
* Town Hall Los Angeles hosts astronomer Carl Sagan, who will discuss human exploration of other worlds in "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space," at the Bonaventure Hotel at noon Thursday. Call (213) 628-8141 for reservations.
SCIENCE FOR KIDS
* Caring for the Earth and its resident plants and animals is the focus of "NatureKids," a program offered by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden for children ages 5 to 10 from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. (805) 563-2521.
* The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is offering an after-school program on the coastal marine environment from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays. (310) 548-7563.
* Entomologist David Faulkner will discuss forensic entomology, the use of insects in the investigation of homicides, at the Palm Springs Desert Museum's Annenberg Theater at 7:30 p.m. Friday. (619) 325-7186.
* Donald Yeomans, senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will discuss "Cosmic Collisions and Near-Earth Objects" at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Beckman Auditorium. (818) 395-4652 or (800) 423-8849.
* The Griffith Observatory's Traveling Telescope program will be at the Fairfax Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library at 6:45 p.m. Monday. (213) 936-6191.