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DRONE

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DRONE

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:18 pm

• drone •


Pronunciation: dron • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun; Verb

Meaning: 1. (Noun) The male bee, which is stingless and has only one monotonous job: fertilizing the queen. 2. (Noun) A drudge, a person who does tedious menial work. 3. (Noun) An unpiloted aircraft operated by remote control. 4. (Verb) To make a low, dull, monotonous humming sound. 5. (Verb) To speak in a monotonous, low, methodical, plodding, deliberate, drawn-out tone.

Notes: Today's Good Words are a twofer: two words for the price of one—a very reasonable price, at that. The family of the verb drone is the ordinary cast of characters: droning, the adjective and noun, and droned, the past tense adjective. As for the noun drone, dronage has been used a time or two as the state of a human drone as, "When she stepped into his life, she interrupted his dronage at the office."

In Play: What convinced me to work up today's Good Words was the ease with which I could think of a sentence using both words: "The senator from Kentucky droned on for thirteen and a half hours about the US drone program." The US drone program involving pilotless aircraft focused on members of the Al Qaeda leadership along the Pakistan border, is much in the news today.

Word History: Although the twofer offer still stands, both words seem to have originated from one source: the name of the male honeybee. His wings make the dull continuous noise that sounds much like that of a long, boring speech. His job is also a boring one that could be carried out unpiloted (without a brain). The original word drone has been in English since at least 1000 AD. Its earliest appearance was as Old English dran. We can find evidence of it in other Germanic languages, for example, German dröhnen "to boom". Some think it originated as an onomatopoetic imitation of the actual buzzing of the male bee, but that is the explanation of buzz! (Not to drone on about it, but at this point we must thank Patricia Waddy for suggesting this word, just as Ange Bunch was looking for it in the Alpha Agora.)
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Re: DRONE

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:36 pm

My last professional assignment was adapting and installing
intelligence and communication payloads on drones. I had never imagined a drone could be an offensive weapon. I take no part in the present controversy.
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Re: DRONE

Postby MTC » Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:23 am

Remarkable, isn't it, that the drone, a creature reviled for its unproductivity, has produced so many distinct meanings (polysemy)?

Speaking of which, most of the buzz today (sorry, couldn't resist) is about how to define the third sense of "drone:" "3. (Noun) An unpiloted aircraft operated by remote control," according to Dr. G. Here's an interesting Scientific American article which answers the question, "What is a drone, anyway?" http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/gue ... ne-anyway/

Unlike its namesake, the military drone has a sting, something Philip did not anticipate. But men have had a tendency to lose control of their creations since Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, if not before.
Last edited by MTC on Tue Mar 12, 2013 5:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: DRONE

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Mar 12, 2013 12:37 pm

Drone can mean 'drudge'. Yet someone who works hard
at a menial job can be drudging in a positive sense.
It need not be 'boring, negative' - many people's jobs
are drudgery: but goal oriented.
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Re: DRONE

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Mar 12, 2013 4:45 pm

The SA article is great and tells me lots more about "unmanned" aircraft. Still the underlying discussion of whether to call a particular aircraft a drone or not is only a matter of semantics. The important point is a common understanding between the one using the word and the one hearing it. If both understand, you could even refer to it as "that thing."
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Re: DRONE

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Mar 12, 2013 5:28 pm

Or in red-neck, "thet thar thaang". We called them Unmanned Air Vehicles "UAVs" when I worked with them. I believe UAV is the better name because it is the official military name. When I think of drones, I think of limited mobility UAVs in WW II. I never heard them called that, but Nazi buzz-bombs could be correctly called drones.

There are uses for UAVs other than in the military. The U. S. Border Patrol has them. They can fly over terrain with certain sensors and assess numerous characteristics of the scene below. For example, they can be used to fly over forests and detect the presence of trees infested with certain parasites that are killing them by the IR signals the trees give off. I helped a university start such a program. UAVs can make higher precision photographic maps than satelites can. Of course, the possible presence of surveillance UAVs should give one pause to sunbathing in the nude in one's own back yard. This may even be said of satellites which have much better aerial resolution than Google can show you.
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Re: DRONE

Postby MTC » Tue Mar 12, 2013 5:37 pm

" Of course, the possible presence of surveillance UAVs should give one pause to sunbathing in the nude in one's own back yard."

Precisely. Just where one should feel most secure from the prying eyes of the state. The drones pose a major threat to our fourth amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures--unless you are a member of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, that is.
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Re: DRONE

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Mar 12, 2013 6:20 pm

I would tend to agree, tho' I don't sunbathe 'au naturel'.
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Re: DRONE

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:22 pm

I think we have not yet mentioned the musical drone. Although musical drones require little attention from the performer they are not named after self-flying aircraft. Drones are fixed notes that are played constantly in the background of a melody. The most notable drones are on bagpipes. The only work the piper does to get the drones going is to blow in the air. The pipe, which is similar to a flute or fife, is used to play the tune.

Do you know why bagpipers usually walk or march while playing? They are trying to get away from the sound.

It has amazed me how the playing of "Amazing Grace" by a bagpipe at funerals and other solemn events has become almost ubiquitous.
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Re: DRONE

Postby MTC » Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:34 am

Ah, I see my political remark about drones may have hit a sour note. Philip's comment about bagpipe drones is much more musical. Which brings me to "standing waves:"

"Most wind instruments-like saxophones, clarinets, and oboes-produce different notes by opening and closing holes in a tube so that standing waves of different wavelengths are produced. The bass drone on a set of great highland bagpipes produces a note one octave lower than the tenor drones; therefore, it is essentially twice as long as the tenor drones."

(http://www.ux1.eiu.edu/~cfadd/3050/Adve ... ch12_2.htm)

So is a bagpipe drone a "standing wave?" Or am I just droning on, full of hot air, that is?
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Re: DRONE

Postby call_copse » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:58 am

I'm going to stick up for bagpipes somewhat - I enjoy a visit to the Highland Games when in Scotland and the massed bagpipe bands are an impressive feature in my book. Their drone is somehow more blackboard-teeth-on-edge when played individually, at least to me, when massed they sound more - well, I'm searching for the word here, not majestic exactly, or military, or intimidating, or musical, well maybe all of that. It irons out some of the discordance I think.

Don't rule them out entirely anyhow - their tones certainly have struck fear into many regimental opponents over the years.
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Re: DRONE

Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Mar 13, 2013 3:34 pm

MTC: I understand the political complexity of using drone weapons in warfare. I am against war, but I subscribe to the just war theory enunciated by the Catholic Church and honored by most religions. The big problem is determining whether a war is a just war. Sometimes I am of the opinion that the only just wars the United States has engaged in were WWI and WWII. I am in an in-depth study of the American Revolution at the moment for a class I teach. A case can be made for the American Revolution’s not being a just war for either side.

I am neither a physicist nor a professional musician. I am a professional systems engineer and teacher. I am an amateur theologian, musician, genealogist, linguist, and etc. My daughter, a professional musician (piano and voice), says that understanding standing waves is above her pay grade. I don't find much about acoustical standing waves on the Internet. My father-in-law was a professional organist but he is no longer with us. I am under the impression that a drone on a bagpipe is much like a single pipe on a pipe organ. The other musical part of a bagpipe is similar to the woodwind instruments you mentioned. Since I can play a fife, and drones don’t really have to be played, I suppose I could play a bagpipe. But I have never tried. Is there an expert on acoustical standing waves on this forum?

We all tend to drone on this forum, and probably in other places.

call_copse: I am definitely a lover of bagpipes. My last blurb on this topic was a feeble attempt at a joke. I also understand your inability to describe just how bagpipes impress you. I am the same. My Celtic blood requires that I love bagpipes, but it hasn’t yet required me to wear a kilt.
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Re: DRONE

Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Mar 13, 2013 5:14 pm

Kilts! now the eternal question: do they wear
underwear under the lovely pleated things?
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Re: DRONE

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:15 pm

A couple of things: first, I like UAVs for writing and drones for speaking. Parsimony, but not persimmons nor parsly.
Second, why are there always standing waves? Why not sitting or flying? And are you sure they are indeed waves and not particles?
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Re: DRONE

Postby gailr » Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:49 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:Second, why are there always standing waves? Why not sitting or flying? And are you sure they are indeed waves and not particles?

If you're serious and not just making a joke :) there's a short, fun video with Brian Cox demonstrating standing waves with string. If it intrigues you, there are all kinds of more scholarly (yet still accessible) links to explain more thoroughly, from hydrodynamics to meteorology to optics to cats.


(Cat added as a joke, referring to Schrödinger's famous thought experiment. Observation is said to collapse the wave function to resolve the cat into a single state: alive or not.)
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