True story: My long-departed pet iguana, Zapper, once jumped off my computer monitor and landed on my lap during a phone interview I was conducting from my home office. When the people on the other end of the call asked why I'd screamed mid-question, I told them a large reptile had just attacked me. Everybody thought I was making a joke.

Pro tip: If you're a home-based bureau chief, don't conduct phone or video interviews when there is a stupid, semi-wild animal (iguana) in the room with you. This goes double if you like conducting early-morning phone interviews dressed only in a thin bathrobe.

Here in Evanston, Illinois, it's cicada season again. (Cicada trivia: These insects, a suborder of Auchenorrhyncha, spend most of their lives as underground nymphs, emerging only after 13 or 17 years.) It's a "heavy" cicada season here this year; their nightly song easily drowns out the neighborhood street traffic.

If you don't enjoy the incessant, undulating sound coming from a few dozen insects overhead, you're definitely not going to like the forthcoming dawn of The Drone Age.

In the near future, the airspace above your house, above your quiet residential street, will be dotted with whirling and buzzing mechanical dragonflies.

According to BZ Media, producer of commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) show InterDrone, about 160 exhibitors will show their wares when the event opens on September 7 at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. InterDrone will have sessions on design, regulation, and even "Drone Video/Photo/Cinema." However, there's nothing on the agenda about "noise abatement."

Some of your are probably thinking, "Come on, there's already plenty of noise in urban and suburban environments, from barking dogs to air conditioners to Taylor Swift on tight rotation. What's one more thing? Besides, the Subway Drone will bring me my tuna sub quickly!"

But sound, more so than sight, taps into our primal instincts, and can push us over the edge.

Look, nobody gets into a fist fight over some guy's ugly beach towel--the one with hideous day-glow colors and a primitive portrait of Taylor Swift. But turn on a boom box playing Taylor Swift on tight rotation, and you've got annoyance, anger, rage, and possibly a fight.

From the research I've done on the Internet about drone noise (there isn't much), it appears these copters generate between 50 and 100 decibels, depending on their hovering height. One guy who measured the sound of several copters found an output of 53dB at 100ft and 80dB at 10ft.

For comparison, a diesel truck moving at 40 mph that is 50 ft away outputs 84dB. More worrisome, 80dB, which is twice as loud as 70dB, can result in hearing damage after 8 hours of exposure. (

And that's just from one sound source. Now imagine dozens of hellish metal locusts swooping out of the sky all day and night. Moreover, if drones are going to carry packages (sandwiches, Taylor Swift-branded t-shirts, etc.) to our doorsteps, the drones will need to be substantially bigger than the UAVs you've seen to date. Bigger machines means bigger motors and blades, which means louder drones.

Unfortunately, I fear it's too late to stop drones from becoming part of our audio landscape. We can only hope people don't try and muffle their buzz by cranking up the Taylor Swift. That's a world I don't want to live in.

As the Kirk and Chekov run through what’s left of their disgorged, crashed starship, I kept thinking, “It looks like a Best Buy after a tornado.” In one scene, I’m pretty sure I glimpsed a mangled, overturned LG refrigerator.

Is this the best mankind’s material science will produce? Remember, in the Trek universe, starships like the Enterprise are supposed to be the pinnacle of humanity’s technological prowess. Yet the innards of the Enterprise, with its metal gangways, ladders and wires (so many wires), seems to take its design inspiration from a submarine--a World War II submarine.

There are numerous egregious examples of “old tech” in “Star Trek Beyond.” At one point, Lieutenant Uhura flips a switch--a freakin’ red switch!--to initiate a shipwide announcement.

In the original, 1968-69 television series, Gene Roddenberry, bless his visionary heart, more than once portrayed glowing conduits when the crew had to fix something under a bulkhead. The impression was that light was being used to carry power or information throughout the ship. Roddenberry was on the right path, of course. Today’s Internet, with its insatiable appetite for data, wouldn’t be possible without fiber optics. Fiber is now, albeit slowly, making its way to the so-called last mile, and into your house.

The Trek movie now in theaters does offer a few imaginative ideas about future technology, including an ancient, alien weapon that behaves like a swarm of locusts. (One character calls it a “bio weapon,” which is all well and good, although that left me wondering why it destroys clothing as well as tissue and bone. Okay, let’s not quibble.)

But I couldn’t get past the running-and-hand-to-hand-fighting scenes in the trashed Best Buy. The fact that these scenes were long and boring didn’t help.

If humanity in the 22nd century is still creating material goods as screwy--i.e., containing metal screws--as the starships portrayed in “Star Trek Beyond,” I say we stay home. The universe doesn’t need our detritus.

Future material goods will, I suspect, be able to repair themselves when damaged (“machines” will behave like organisms in this future), or at least have the good graces to decay, safely and quietly, into the surrounding environment.

Let’s hope the set designers on the next Star Trek movie free their imaginations. Interstellar submarines and trashed Best Buys aren’t the future.

[phone rings]

"Hi there," she says, her voice bright and enthusiastic. "This is Amy. Are you busy?"

I hear this voice once or twice a week, typically at 10 a.m. or thereabouts. The caller ID tells me the number comes from Texas. I imagine a stack of servers in a dark closet in a building on the outskirts of Dallas. I decide to have some fun.

"Amy, are you a robot?"

There's a pause, and for an instant I doubt my instincts.

Amy laughs. "No, I'm not a robot," she says, her voice bright and enthusiastic.

Shaken, I hang up.

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