Adam Berry/Getty
Adam Berry/Getty

Uber Drivers in China Are Using Ghoulish Pictures to Scare Away Passengers

Adam Berry/Getty
Adam Berry/Getty

The latest complaint Uber users have with the ride-sharing app sounds like the set-up to a horror movie: After a ride request is accepted, some passengers in China have been greeted with the profile of a “ghost driver” en route to pick them up. According to The Guardian, the spooky images are part of a new scheme used by drivers in China to score cancellation fees.

Drivers taking part in the deception will upload a picture manipulated to look like a ghost, zombie, or vampire to an otherwise normal profile. The intention is to frighten passengers into canceling their ride for a small fee the drivers then get to keep. Each cancellation amounts to 4.20 yuan, or about $.60.

That’s small enough that many would-be passengers won’t bother reporting the incident: Meanwhile, ghost drivers can spend the day scaring away customers and watch the fees add up. When brave passengers do decide to wait around for the ride, some ghost drivers will take the scam even further and accept a rider on the app as if they’ve entered the car without picking them up. The stood-up customer will eventually cancel and the driver still gets the fee.

Uber employees have plagued the ride-sharing service with scams in the past, from following unnecessary routes to charging customers for vomiting in the car when they never did. The company says they're refunding any customers who were involved in the latest scam and introducing facial-recognition technology to crack down on further driver fraud.

[h/t The Guardian]

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A New Jersey Real Estate Sign Lost in Hurricane Sandy Just Washed Ashore in France
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In 2012, during the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, a New Jersey real estate sign went missing. The sign was torn from its post in front of a waterfront home in Brielle and washed away to an unknown location. Now, almost six years later, it has shown up—in France.

According to The New York Times, the sign from Diane Turton, Realtors, a Jersey Shore real estate firm, washed ashore on a French beach near Bordeaux. Hannes Frank was walking along Plage du Pin Sec when he spotted the sign, a little worse for wear but still legible. He emailed the realtors about his find and included pictures of the broken sign in the sand.

The plastic sign traveled approximately 3595 miles during its years-long journey. An oceanographer suggested to The New York Times that it could have crossed the Atlantic Ocean multiple times before Frank found it, estimating that it would take about a year and a half for an object to drift from New Jersey to France. A floating real-estate sign could travel about seven miles per day, expert Curtis Ebbesmeyer told the newspaper.

Due to ocean currents, odd objects wash up on beaches all the time from far-flung coasts. Besides your average message-in-a-bottle finds, beachcombers regularly discover possessions washed away in tsunamis and goods that have fallen off cargo ships or been lost in shipwrecks. For instance, in 1992, a cargo ship accidentally spilled 28,000 rubber ducks into the North Pacific; they floated thousands of miles over the course of more than a decade, ending up as far away as Europe. LEGO toys that fell overboard from a container ship during a storm in 1997 are still washing up on English beaches today. Figuring out where these toys and drifting objects end up can help scientists study ocean currents and drift patterns.

But for the most part, the original owners rarely get photo updates about where their lost goods end up.

[h/t The New York Times]

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DNA Analysis of Loch Ness Could Reveal the Lake's Hidden Creatures
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Stakeouts, sonar studies, and a 24-hour video feed have all been set up in an effort to confirm the existence of the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Now, the Associated Press reports that an international team of scientists will use DNA analysis to learn what's really hiding in the depths of Scotland's most mysterious landmark.

The team, led by Neil Gemmell, who researches evolutionary genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand, will collect 300 water samples from various locations and depths around the lake. The waters are filled with microscopic DNA fragments animals leave behind as they swim, mate, eat, poop, and die in the waters, and if Nessie is a resident, she's sure to leave bits of herself floating around as well.

After extracting the DNA from the organic material found in the water samples, the scientists plan to sequence it. The results will then be compared to the DNA profiles of known species. If there's evidence of an animal that's not normally found in the lake, or an entirely new species, the researchers will hopefully spot it.

Gemmell is a Nessie skeptic, and he says the point of the project isn't necessarily to discover new species. Rather, he wants to create a genetic profile of the lake while generating some buzz around the science behind it.

If the study goes according to plan, the database of Loch Ness's inhabitants should be complete by 2019. And though the results likely won't include a long-extinct plesiosaur, they may offer insights about other invasive species that now call the lake home.

[h/t AP]

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