Spying, Supportive, Shining: Our Best Stories You Might Have Missed This Week


App developers make it difficult for users to opt-out of sharing their data. Wenjie Dong/Getty Images

Don't have any plans this weekend? Spend some time checking out the latest articles and podcasts from HowStuffWorks. Here are some you may have missed this week.

The Spying

20-year-old Nathan Ruser, an Australian student and analyst at the Institute for United Conflict Analytics, made headlines this week when he tweeted about a heatmap showing Strava-user activity. Strava is a fitness app for cyclists and joggers that tracks the speed and distance of a workout. In places like the continental United States and Western Europe, the map is very bright, but in Iraq and Syria, the only lit areas are the locations of U.S. military bases. What's so concerning to high-ranking officials at the Pentagon and other agencies, is that the map highlights frequently traveled routes inside and outside of buildings. Most everyone assumes that our apps are tracking us 24 hours a day, but even when we're careful, we can still be caught off-guard.

The Supportive

Even though 2017 was the safest year on record for air travel, flying can still be scary. Some passengers quell their flight anxiety with emotional support animals, or ESAs. But after a passenger was mauled by a dog on board a Delta flight, the airline started cracking down on emotional support animals. ESAs are different from service animals. Service animals are trained to do specific tasks for the disabled, and Federal law dictates that they're allowed to go wherever their owner takes them. ESAs are untrained pets whose sole purpose is to provide comfort to their owners. Just about any animal can be an ESA, and it's likely that some travelers are claiming their pets as ESAs to avoid paying the $100-plus pet transportation fee.

The Shining

This week on the Stuff They Don't Want You To Know podcast, a fan asks hosts Ben Bowlin and Matt Frederick "What exactly are 'Ghost Lights'?" Ghost lights are a worldwide phenomenon that go by many names. The lights frequently hover in the middle of the street or over treetops, and the strangest thing about them is that they appear to be sentient, or at least able to move of their own volition. Possible causes for these apparitions range from the mundane to the supernatural. Join Ben and Matt as they check the validity of each theory.


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