5 Intriguing Things: Thursday, 2/13


3. 20,000 people an hour are starting their GM cars from their phones. And GM is tracking this.

"GM’s most impressive app, though, was the one it designed itself. Called Vehicle Health Monitor, the app does a complete diagnostic check of the car’s systems, pointing out possible issues on easy-to-read vehicle diagrams. And if it finds a problem it will even offer to book a maintenance appointment with your dealership, searching its appointment book for open time slots.

The Vehicle Health app is an example of GM moving outside the confines of the infotainment system and tapping into the control access networks of the car itself. Other automakers have built similar diagnostic applications, but the difference here is that GM is going to extend that access to developers through application programming interfaces. One day Pandora may be able to automatically select a music station based on how fast you’re driving or whether the windshield wipers are on.

Tapping vehicle telematics systems could wind up being one of GM’s most popular development features if usage of GM’s own OnStar Remote Link service is any indication. Abram said that in January automated digital interactions with OnStar nearly surpassed voice interactions with live OnStar advisors. Because of the cold wave sweeping the country, OnStar is processing about 20,000 remote engine starts an hour from its Remote Link smartphone app, so drivers can pre-warm their cars."


4. I realized that I never really knew what Charlie Chaplin looked like

"A photographic portrait of Charlie Chaplin as a young man, Hollywood, taken around 1916 by an unknown photographer. 

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (1899-1977) was an English comic actor and film producer and director of the silent film era."


5. I'd take any of you over Catherine the Great or Frederick II of Prussia.

"Grimm's interest was in what John Milton called a 'fit audience, though few' — but Grimm defined fitness by social standing. He counted among his subscribers Catherine the Great of Russia, Frederick II of Prussia, and several other European kings, princes, and aristocrats. Their interest in the newsletter seems to have been both personal — wanting to be "in the know" about the goings-on in Paris, the cultural capital of their world — but also politically self-interested, since some of the French thinkers took rather extreme political positions which, in the nature of things, were likely to spread to the intellectuals of the rest of Europe.

Moreover, these handwritten newsletters, even though not written in Grimm's own hand, had the personal touch: they were not official publications, diplomatic dispatches, authorized works of scholarship, but confidential and gossipy letters from knowledgable and charming friends. There was something of both stock and flow about them. They brought cultural and artistic news the subscribers weren't likely to get otherwise, at least not in so reliable a form, but they also explained what one should think about, how one should evaluate, the ever-changing, dynamic, rollicking world of Parisian art and culture. La Correspondance may not have had many subscribers, but I bet on the day of any given issue's delivery the readers' pulses were reliably racing."


Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip:

apocrypha. Writings or statements of doubtful authorship or authority. Pl., but commonly used as a singular. (The sing. of the Greek form, formerly used in English, is apocryphon.) When a plural is needed, now apocryphas, formerly apocryphy

One apocryphon, two apocryphy.


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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