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2016 March

March 23, 2016

The Future Will Be Quiet

The Atlantic magazine has released an article for their April 2016 issue about how the expansion of electric cars and appliances will lead to a future with less noise due to having fewer petroleum-powered engines around. Presently, U.S. cities are fairly loud places with car horns, traffic, and other background-noise levels reaching around 70 decibels–about the level of a vacuum cleaner drone at close range.

As a society, technology is already contributing to a quieter environment as seen in the aviation industry. Due to the advent of satellite systems–which have made it possible for aircraft to take off and land at steeper angles, aircraft noise fell by 95 percent from 1970 to 2004 even as the number of flights have increased according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Additionally, NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project are designing planes that hope to make the most-advanced aircraft half as loud as they are now by 2025.

For more on this subject, check out this article from The Atlantic.

March 21, 2016

Google’s search algorithm update stresses greater importance on mobile-friendly sites

This image shows that the CASIT Home Page meets the Google standard for mobile-friendly sites. Check out the link in the article to see how your site works.

This image shows that the CASIT Home Page meets the Google standard for mobile-friendly sites. Check out the link in the article to see how your site works.

According to, recent updates to Google’s search algorithm now increases importance on sites that have a mobile-friendly offering. To incentivize developers, Google is adding more weight to the badges used to denote sites as mobile-friendly when determining search results pages. Google started this effort in 2014 and has since started to use this as a ranking signal which many developers are now starting to incorporate.

Here at the University of Oregon, the UO Blogs service offers a plethora of mobile-ready web themes to use within its WordPress habitat. CASIT’s Web Services team in conjunction with the CAS Dean’s Office has worked over the last couple years to incorporate a new mobile-capable theme–the CAS Department Theme–to provide a better experience on many of the college’s department pages.

For more information on the Google algorithm updates, please check out these articles from and the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

If you would like to see how your site (or any other) complies with the new algorithm, check out this link from Google Developers.

March 16, 2016

Project AIX using Minecraft to develop more intelligent technology

(From Microsoft blog, written by Allison Linn, March 13, 2016):

In the airy, loft-like Microsoft Research lab in New York City, five computer scientists are spending their days trying to get a Minecraft character to climb a hill.

That may seem like a pretty simple job for some of the brightest minds in the field, until you consider this: The team is trying to train an artificial intelligence agent to learn how to do things like climb to the highest point in the virtual world, using the same types of resources a human has when she learns a new task.

That means that the agent starts out knowing nothing at all about its environment or even what it is supposed to accomplish. It needs to understand its surroundings and figure out what’s important – going uphill – and what isn’t, such as whether it’s light or dark. It needs to endure a lot of trial and error, including regularly falling into rivers and lava pits. And it needs to understand – via incremental rewards – when it has achieved all or part of its goal.

For more on Project AIX, check out the remainder of the article at the Microsoft Blog.

March 3, 2016

This tiny bot glows to diagnose tuberculosis

This nanomachine created by Brock University in Canada helps to diagnose diseases with much quicker results.

This nanomachine created by Brock University in Canada helps to diagnose diseases with much quicker results. 

Scientists from Brock University in Canada have engineered nanoparticles to help with diagnosing tuberculosis more quickly and accurately than existing tests.

The nanomachine–as it is called by research Feng Li–is a three-dimensional, microscopic robot that consists of a 20-nanometer particle made of gold that has attached to it short and long strands of DNA. The short strands are used carry fluorescent signal reporters and the long strand contains whatever specific disease that is being tested. The sample will glow if that particular disease is present within it.

According to their paper, “the nanoparticle was able to successfully detect TB in the human serum sample” and that unlike conventional testing methods that require sophisticated equipment and highly trained personnel to get results in about a day, this new method can be used in most clinics and labs with results as little as a half-hour.

For more information on this nanomachine, check out Brock University’s press release and the research paper released on this project.

March 2, 2016

Mapping History: a Digital Humanities project here at UO

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 3.51.06 PM

The University of Oregon in association with Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation have developed Mapping History–an online database of maps “that is designed to provide interactive and animated representations of fundamental historical problems and/or illustrations of historical events, developments, and dynamics.”

This project has been supervised here at the University largely by Professors John Nicols and James Mohr. Professor Nicols contributed maps focused on the Roman period and Professor Mohr with maps focused on American social history in the 19th century. Additional UO contributors to this project include Professors David Luebke, Ina Asim, and Alex Dracobly.

For more information on this project, check out their homepage at this link.