Numlock News: May 6, 2020 • The Room, Donkey Kong, Detonation Engines
By Walt Hickey
Filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, best known as the star, director and writer of cult movie The Room, has been ordered to pay $550,000 to four documentary filmmakers to compensate them for lost revenue related to the documentary Room Full of Spoons. The doc was intended to be released in 2017 to capitalize on the Sony Pictures movie The Disaster Artist, but Wiseau sued them for invasion of privacy and copyright violation. The Ontario Superior Court Judge instead found the clips were fair dealing, and that the suit was brought to prevent the release of an unflattering documentary. On top of the lost revenue, Wiseau was ordered a further $200,000 (CAD) in punitive damages.
Documents obtained by Ars Technica detail an ongoing lawsuit between Billy Mitchell, who once held the record for highest score in the arcade game Donkey Kong, among others, and Twin Galaxies, a company that oversees, confirms and honors world records in arcade games. In April 2018, Twin Galaxies stripped Mitchell of all of his records after an extensive review of a recording of Mitchell’s Donkey Kong record found what Twin Galaxies said were transition images that would be impossible on an unmodified Donkey Kong arcade game. Mitchell’s LA complaint seeks unspecified damages, but a Broward County, Florida filing estimates $10 million in damages and seeks $1 million from each named plaintiff. Twin Galaxies has moved to strike the suit in an anti-SLAPP motion. That motion entered into evidence a 3,770-post dispute thread regarding the allegations around Mitchell’s Donkey Kong scores from 170 contributors that has been viewed 2.4 million times, plus the results of the months-long investigation.
India’s state-run broadcaster, Doordarshan National, has been re-airing ‘90s superhero show Shaktimaan, ‘80s hit serial The Ramayan, and another ‘80s epic hit Mahabharat during the nation’s lockdown, and the old hits are crushing the competition. The first four episodes of The Ramayan were watched by 170 million viewers, with between 31 million and 51 million tuning in to each episode. On April 16, it appears The Ramayan set a world record, drawing 77 million viewers. By comparison, 19.3 million people watched the Game of Thrones finale.
Work from Home
The Social Security Agency has 53,000 employees working from home with field offices around the country shut down. The government agency is still processing claims and appeals. Indeed, they’re doing so at a faster pace than they had been before the work from home decision. According to the American Federation of Government Employees Council 220, the SSA’s backlog of pending cases has fallen 11 percent since March 23 when the order to convert to work from home came down from up top. Calls from recipients are reportedly being fielded faster as well. According to a study conducted two years ago, 42 percent of the 2.1 million people employed by the government were eligible to telework, but only half did.
As Amazon’s two-day shipping promise crumbles under the weight of a rush of orders, new competitors have arisen to move in on the retailer’s home turf: book sales. Bookshop.org launched a few months ago and is poised to suck up a large share of the indie book marketplace thanks to its highly favorable kickbacks to local independent bookstores who refer sales. Those independent sellers get 30 percent of the cover price for sales they instigate, don’t have to bother with any of the actual delivery stuff, and their affiliate share for recommended books is 10 percent. Those are some seriously competitive numbers: Amazon offers 4.5 percent of the sale to affiliate marketers who facilitate a sale.
A research team from the University of Central Florida working with the Air Force claims to have built an operational model of a rotating detonation engine. Most engines use combustion — mix fuel and oxygen at a high enough temperature and it’s going to burn predictably and move an engine — but detonation is a more fickle beast, requiring controlled and predictable explosions, which are fairly notorious for being neither controllable nor predictable. The advantage of detonation-based propulsion is you get more bang for your buck in the most literal possible interpretation of that phrase: more energy for less fuel. The engineers built a 3-inch copper test rig that, using hydrogen and oxygen for propellant, was sustained continuously up to 200 pounds of force. And while that adorable little fun-sized firecracker isn’t going anywhere, the tech has potential: the U.S. Air Force wants to do a rotating detonation rocket engine launch test flight by 2025, and the Navy estimated back in 2012 that rotating detonation engines could save them 15 to 20 percent of their fuel bill.
I’ve Abandoned My Child
As the price of oil dips calamitously, a new problem lurks ahead: orphaned oil wells. There are 3 million abandoned oil wells across the United States, wells that do not have any ties to a solvent company anymore, or ties to anyone who is responsible for them. This is a big issue because they’re sometimes quite nasty, polluting areas nearby and releasing dangerous or volatile chemicals. Costs to clean them up and plug them closed can range from thousands of dollars up to millions of dollars per well, and when nobody is on the hook for them anymore, it’s up to the states to process them. This is a laborious process: Louisiana plugs 180 orphaned wells per year, but still has 4,000 on backlog. With oil crashing, there may be more insolvent companies yet to come. About 84 percent of bonds for federal oil and gas development are likely insufficient to fund cleanup costs.
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