TOURIST TRAP IN THE HINDU-KUSH

One sleepy Afghanistan village is trying to convince foreigners to visit a town made internationally famous by one of the worst acts of cultural terrorism in recent history. Having enjoyed years of relative stability, Bamiyan wants to open up its cultural heritage to intrepid travelers curious to see more of the country than war.

MORE OF AN ART THAN A SCIENCE

Even seemingly silly science can be useful — for example, it's good to know that if you're experiencing a raging nosebleed, shoving a slice of cured pork up your nose just might save your life. Or that it's normal to see the face of Jesus on a piece of toast. Those published scientific findings, and many more, won the highest honors at the 24th annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, conducted at Harvard's Sanders Theater on Thursday.

YOU WILL SQUIRM, AND YOU'LL KEEP READING

When I told the nurse that I wanted an epidural, Dustin, my fiancé, asked if I was sure. We’d decided ahead of time that he’d challenge me if I brought it up. “This isn’t what we talked about,” he reminded me. “This isn’t what you wanted.” I gathered my strength to respond and told him that those ideas were from a different person.

TINY WONDERS

"The Diatomist" is a short documentary about Klaus Kemp, master of the Victorian art of diatom arrangement. Diatoms are single cell algae that create jewel-like glass shells around themselves. Microscopists of the Victorian era would arrange them into complex patterns, invisible to the naked eye but spectacular when viewed under magnification.

80 MEN AND 500 HORSES

Given that most have still heard of the Pony Express today, unlike so many other messaging companies long gone, you may think that the Pony Express was once an integral part of communication between the East and West in the United States. It turns out, this was never the case and the Pony Express was around only for an extremely short amount of time.

LIFE AS A GUTTER PUNK

To learn about the mainstream culture of an era, it helps to look at the vagrants and nomads who have dropped out of it: the tramps of the Gilded Age; the beatniks of the 1950s. Today they are called crusties, gutter punks, or the voluntary homeless — but they often refer to themselves simply as travelers.

GOOD, HONEST FOOTBALL

Amazingly, there was a time when the NFL was perceived to be so staid and honorable that NBC Universal and WWE magnate Vince McMahon paired up to invest some $100 million in a rowdy, "bad-boy" rival.

BANGING THE GANGBANGERS

When I tell people that I recently finished serving a 10-year prison sentence for armed robbery, mostly in maximum-security facilities, I often feel a question lingering in the air. The moment I sense it, I try to respond to the awkward silence in some offhanded way, though it is hard to be blithe and whimsical when you're telling people you were never raped in prison.