The Tuition Addition

Education debt soars with rising college tuition and correlated Piketty inequality, causing loss of opportunity in America

Want a good job? Though experts say get an advanced degree, tuition costs continuously rise while salaries continuously drop.  If you agree to excessive debt at market rates, you must  accept the grinding consequences.  Data show clear and shocking correlation to Piketty’s “income inequality” (= workers’ fraction of all U.S. wages has been falling since 1981) .  Student debt burden has been rising at a well known but astonishing rate.

Post high-school education is expensive and has been growing ever higher for some time, with no good way to pay for it. This should worry you if you are considering how to survive our present and future reality of shriveling opportunities in the American world.

The NCES (National Center for Educational Statistics) is a government agency that reviews current and past American education.  We use the current NCES post-secondary education (post high-school) tuition trend data to understand what has happened over the past 40+ school years (1969-70 to 2011-12), then demonstrate a correlation with Saez-Piketty economic changes.  Continue reading

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World Oil Production – Our Finite World

Just a note on a blog we’ve discussed before.   A perceptive analysis of our civilization’s current status in tapping its finite oil reservoir has been posted on Our Finite World.  It is called World Oil Production at 3/31/2014–Where Are We Headed?.

As we have pointed out before, Our Finite World has many carefully crafted analyses on the usage of our petroleum reserves; this one is a must-read if you are interested in the situation.   Personally, I think of it as a needed update to LastTechAge’s  Patterns in World Oil Production.

OFW WorldOilProduction 2014-0331Gail Tverberg discusses production from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Iraq, US, and Canada – a meaningful list.  It includes a very perceptive analysis of the price implications.

You can see the issue in her first graph (Figure 1) on World crude production. This is an increasing curve but the rate of rise drops off and the production curve is starting to flatten out, though not yet at a peak.  She uses linear graphs which are more intuitive than the LTA preferred semilog ones.  Her points are clear.

click for LastTechAge discussions about oil reserves

Read it then think – how good are projections of future prosperity if viewed under the shadow of outrageously expensive oil?

George Bush filled up our Strategic Oil Reserve in the early 2000’s when oil was about $35/US-barrel.  Today it is in the neighborhood of $100/US-barrel (factor of nearly 3 over the decade).  Multiply this by only 2 for the coming decade then make a do-it-yourself projection as to how we will be living.


Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2014 July 23
Listed under Natural Resources  … thread   Natural resources > Oil
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Piketty Under Attack

Piketty is under attack by the Far Right. They argue the data , or imply he is a hidden Communist.

Thomas Piketty published the English translation of his Capital in the Twenty First Century (C21) and pulled his massive open database into the bright light of fame. Reviews started arriving in March; praise came from economists in the political moderate center to central left. The far left think it is incomplete, it ignores important things. The strongest pushback, though, has been from the fringe on the political right. A small sampling of responses:

Positive: Eduardo Porter3 reviews from economistsJennifer SchuesslerSteven Erlanger,   Paul Krugman.

Negative:  James Pethokoukis,  David BrooksClive Crook (neg)Thomas EdsallChris Giles,  plus the Scott Winship and Russ Douthat (their comments below).

C21 is incomplete:   Clive Crook (pos)  later version.
Modern left of center thought
(Andrew Mackay).    Adviser to President Neil Irwin.
There are many more that say C21 has incomplete solutions than in this tiny sampling

The LastTechAge review of C21 is here.

The Attack Continue reading

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ABM Test Finally Succeeded, Maybe

Successful test of troublesome ABM used known-flawed kill vehicle. Meaningful or theater?

The U.S. successfully tested its anti-ICBM missile on 2014-Jun-22, with a launch from Vandenberg AFB in California.  News was trumpeted everywhere!  The LA Times says that the launch came just after noon (Pacific Time), and could be seen in nearby towns.  I used to enjoy seeing Minuteman  launches from much further south, near San Diego.

The GBI  (Ground Based Interceptor, also called GMD for Ground-based Midcourse Defense) dates back to the 1980s SDI program with a very bad history (see our final ABM report  last year).   So we have to ask about fraud, graft, and conspiracies to protect hidden activities, cash flows. Continue reading

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Piketty discovers America or vice versa

Piketty describes the growth of U.S. and World inequality with unique large data resource. Our review of Capital In The 21st Century

The French economist Thomas Piketty  published the French edition of his new book Capital In The Twenty-First Century in  2013.   (Call it C21.)  English version came out in April 2014.  Finally.

Click any image for full resolution.  Click here to jump to our (LastTechAge) review.


Fig 1:  the book causing all the fuss.

Fig 1  is a link to the Harvard University Press website.  Review copies were passed around after Christmas and breathless reports  started appearing by February.

Response was immediate and strong long before the planned release date and I can almost see/hear rioting mobs outside Harvard offices…  Mobs probably never happened, but by the end of March, the publisher agreed to early release its English translation of C21.

My own impatience pushed me over the top in mid-March when Continue reading

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NIF shifts toward success – 4

NIF addresses the universal RT instability all implosion fusion schemes must face, is there 7more that they can do?

NIF people limited the impact of the RT instability in their most recent report.  But they have more to do and surprises to absorb before they achieve their goals.  This is our 4th post in this thread.  Summary of our previous 3:

    1. Gain: Target implosions produced about as much energy as was applied.
    2. Enhanced heating: The fusion reaction is starting to cause more fusion. First step towards an ignited plasma core.
    3. Not in-control:  The stagnation core at the end of the implosion is an inefficient donut with hard peanuts on one side, should be a plum with a hard/hot central core.
    4. Something is not working as expected:  Are there hidden issues that block success?

This is a “popular” discussion, not a truly technical one, but we must estimate one more technical topic if we want to understand.  But you may skip the close-up discussion; click Summary and jump past the nitty-gritty  details.

Click any image to expand to full size.

Rayleigh-Taylor Instabilities Continue reading

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NIF shifts toward success – 3

NIF released positive data.  Is some unexpected effect is blocking full success?

The staff of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore California released papers on very positive new results in their work toward inertial confinement fusion (ICF).  NIF is on a success path, and they need to continue doing what they just did, but more so.  This will actualize the potential for 5 MJ power output/target shot, as  required for true success.

This is our 3rd post in this thread.  NIF results discussed in Parts 1 and 2:

    1. Gain: Target implosions produced about as much energy as was applied.
    2. Enhanced heating: The fusion reaction is starting to cause more fusion. First step towards an ignited plasma core.
    3. Not in-control:  The stagnation core at the end of the implosion is an inefficient donut with hard peanuts on one side, should be a plum with a hard/hot central core

We continue our discussion by looking at what might have been helped by their new operating changes. This is a “popular” discussion, not a truly technical one, but we must get through some of the technical points if we want to understand.

Click any image to expand to full size.

 Overview:  Beams on Target

Table A outlines Continue reading

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NIF shifts toward success – 2

NIF’s 2013 data showed fusion can be feasible but geometries need adjustment.

We  continue our discussion by looking at target geometry.  Yes, NIF seems on a success path, but they do need to clean up various physical details. That would lead them to the point that it would be reasonable to start considering realistic IFE power plant designs.

NIF results discussed in Part 1:

    1. Gain: Target implosions produced about as much energy as was applied. Yes!
    2. Enhanced heating: fusion-produced alphas provided significant heating to the plasma, and enhanced the yield of fusion energy. Yes!

Point 2 indicates that a path to ignition surely exists in ICF studies.  Ignition is the name when the fusion reaction products (the alphas) become a significant energy source to drive new fusion events. We need an ignited plasma to use the fuel. Fusion power plants can never be economical without ignition.

So… what happened to make things work? Continue reading

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NIF shifts toward success – 1

Tweaks at NIF generate good results – to come: spectacular shots 

NIF (National Ignition Facility) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California published results during the dark of winter that are exciting, show astounding differences from all their previous announcements.  This is our Part 1 of 2 on the what and why of these data.   Their promising results came out in February, in different journals with different but complimentary results; a note in Physics Review Letters, (get a free PDF copy!),  a Letter in the journal Nature (behind a paywall), and Daniel Clery wrote a news summary  in the journal Science (perhaps easier to access).

During my recent blogging sabbatical, there have been many events worthy of comment.  Many, like this, have been very positive and leave me in an upbeat feeling.  NIF results area good place to start our discussions.


Fig 1:  Dr. Omar Hurricane, NIF Team Leader for laser fusion studies

In the past, LastTechAge has been pretty critical about how LLNL upper management has guided NIF operations.  See our Index for other posts in the Technology-Fusion ICR thread.

It is about time to recognize the hard earned achievement that NIF Team Leader Dr. Omar Hurricane and his team have accomplished.  He and 15 others are listed Continue reading

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Is Copper entering crisis mode?

Under current exponential exploitation, copper supplies will peak by mid 21st century.

A recent study indicates that we may run out of economical copper by mid century.  This detailed analysis, using a painstakingly gathered database, has been discussed in the news lately.  Despite the fact that production is still currently exponential, analysis indicates we should not expect such growth beyond another 30 or 40 years; expect readily available copper to peak around the middle of this century.

The 2014 Feb 14 issue of the journal Science has a discussion of copper resource projections in its News Focus section, written by Richard Kerr, Science News editor.   The report (the full report is behind Science’s pay-wall) discusses results by Dr. Steve Mohr of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS (University of Technology – Sidney, Australia).

Dr Mohr has developed a modeling program that uses current and past data, per country,  giving demand, supply and resource estimates to project probable future trends.  His program has been used to develop projections for a number of minerals.  The point is that the model aggregates many factors from individual countries into an over all projection of world resource availability.

Dr Steve Mohr - UTS 150x200Dr Damien Guirco, UTSDr Garvin Mudd - Monash Univ 150x200

Here is the abstract and handout at the October Geological Society of America meeting in Denver were by Damien Giurco – UTS, Steve Mohr – UTS, and Gavin Mudd – Monash Univ, all Australian researchers.  Dr Mudd and his workers aggregated the data a couple years ago. At the time, reports claimed these data proved we had no worries for the foreseeable future!   This same data set was analyzed by Mohr’s code, the Geologic Resource Supply-Demand Model (GeRS-DeMo), and produced drastically different projections. Continue reading

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Do you follow Our Finite World?

Our Finite World is an outstanding blog that studies issues related to resource depletion from a financial actuary’ view.

Gail Tverberg writes Our Finite World.   It is a blog strongly engaged in the problems we are and will be facing as our energy costs move into the stratosphere. Costs rise because resource scarcity forces continually rising cost-of-extraction, which drives prices through the ceiling.

Ms. Tverberg’s view is that this huge rise of costs will financially exceed our ability to maintain a stable society long before we run out of raw material.  LastTechAge has pointed out several times that we will probably never hear that sucking sound from our oil wells as you hear when a straw sucks the last drops Coca Cola from a bottle.

click for LastTechAge discussions about oil reserves

Ms. Tverberg work is a data and graph driven analysis and I can find no fault in anything she has said.   These are  issues that LastTechAge also follows and  our views are nearly identical.  Tverberg’s commentaries are outstanding and are on the Must-Read list, if you follow the issue (even if you do not).


Gail Tverberg – Our Finite World

Her current post, Ten Reasons Intermittent Renewables  (Wind and Solar PV) are a Problem is a succinct analysis probing the issues behind current arguments in our technical society. How we decide to resolve these problems is crucial to our life will be like on the the other side of the social branch point called resource management.

Ms. Tverberg makes good sense.  It is always well worth my time to read her posts. If you have not read them yet, you should become acquainted.
Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2014 Jan 25
Listed under   Natural Resources    …thread  Natural Resources > Oil.
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David Brooks and The Inequality Problem problem

Brooks: Minimum Wage – not a problem, Income Inequality – what a sham! The Poor just gotta try harder!

David Brooks published the Op Ed essay “The Inequality Problem” in the New York Times (Jan 17, 2014).  His views are a stunning spin on the crisis in believably that has come up since a number of blogs have been discussing the furor raised by Saez and Piketty’s original studies (updated every year since 1999).   I am proud to say that LastTechAge has been one of those blogs, pounding this issue since 2011. Continue reading

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Minimum Wage – Poverty Level Wage – Unemployment – inequality

The Minimum Wage, Poverty Level Wage, and Unemployment Employment rates are part of the complex of forces driving American inequality.

Minimum wage is in the news because in many localities the current $7.25 seems too low.  Should there be a uniform minimum wage or a patchwork of rules throughout the country?  What seems to be emerging is an increase in the basic allowed minimum value, with local option to raise that minimum for their locality.  Why do this?  LTA argues that it is relieve advancement blockages that have appeared over the past  30 years.

MW  – U.S. Minimum Wage
PLW – U.S. Poverty Level Wage


Fig 1:  Minimum wage in then-current face value and in inflation-adjusted values

Fig 1 shows the federally mandated MW since the law began.  The lower (blue) line with circle markers is the value of the MW.

An interesting discussion of the minimum wage can be found at this Oregon State University website.

The MW in constant buying power is shown in the upper jagged (red) curve with diamond markers.  This adjusts the MW dollar amount for inflation, to always be the value in 2012 dollars.  At 2012 the two curves join. Continue reading

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People are changing the world climate

Could write ten thousand words supporting the stand for anthropologically caused climate change. (LastTechAge  is  something of a science blog.)

But that’s been done.  Here is a good recent one: Why Reddit Banned Climate Denialist Comments, by Nathan Allen, editor of the blog and a respected chemist.  How could we top this outstanding discussion about the kind of people who comment on climate blogs?

Here is another – a top blog that covers the issues and engages denialists directly:  Skeptical Science.   LastTechAge has fusion energy and our retreat from technology, Skeptical Science has climate change and the abuse of the environment.

Global Temperatures through 2012. data

Global Temperatures through 2012. data

Arctic Sea Ice through 2012

These graphs are from Skeptical Science. If you do not know these sites, you ought to.

click for all our discussions about our natural resources

LastTechAge is concerned with the confluence of many trends that have put us (Americans) into social decay – energy, meteorology, aerospace, politics, economics, entertainment, more. All these trends converge for the conviction that the future will be significantly more difficult for the young men and women today than it was even 20 years ago.  If we are living in a complexity-based world, we must be closing in on a change to our equilibrium state, a jump from one quasi-equilibrium attractor point to an unpredictably different one.
Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2013 Dec 16
This is listed under Natural Resources in the >Global Warming thread
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Can we stop using slave labor?

Bangladesh disasters highlight – humans should not be treated as throwaway machines.  Can we do something about this?

Reports say that U.S. retail companies who traffic in cheap commodities from Bangladesh have refused to help the families of the nearly 3000 garment workers who died or were injured in two major disasters during the last year.

The Tazreen fire (2012 Nov 24,  Dhakar Bangladesh) was the one with the locked emergency exit doors, apparently so that workers could not relieve calls from nature during their long work day. The Rana Plaza building collapse (2013 Apr 24, also Dhakar region) was of a factory using a in a building -built for light shopping and offices- as its work site for heavy vibrating equipment.  Help for those damaged in these disasters are our immediate topic, but the issues extend throughout the garment industry, from China to Bangladesh and farther.


Steven Greenhouse, NYT business reporter

The New York Times’ business reporter Steven Greenhouse reports that Primark (Irish) and C&A (Dutch-German) are engaged in making a long-term fund operational.  There are other customer firms negotiating to join the help (names not given in Wikipeida).  But, Walmart, Sears, Children’s place and most other US companies (clients of factories) refuse to come on board; but all claim they have important changes they are right now making – for the past year.  This topic makes for interesting reading.

Let’s not be naive.  If Walmark or Penny’s were to agree to support these families, would it not be an admission that they were complicit in exploiting people who are nearly slaves?  We should not expect to see any such voluntary statement. Continue reading

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When NIF went viral

Internet joy – laser fusion at breakeven!  um…NOT.  BBC reported, copycats ignited. Smoke only, no flame.

Big buzz in Technology news is the rumor that the NIF (National Ignition Facility) laboratory in California made a spectacular step forward.  Did they generate as much fusion energy out as was supplied by the laser light? Or, what?   LastTechAge became aware of the noise via an email … Isn’t this  great? Aren’t we on our way to fusion energy?  Would that we were.

Daniel Clery is a knowledgeable science reporter for the journal Science. According to his post on the ScienceInsider blog, somehow the BBC News got Continue reading

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Economics can never be right Pt-2

Is Economics Science?  Are Economists Scientists?  The war continues

The long anticipated Pro/Con letters in the NYT were published and no one’s mind was changed.

Harvard Nobel laureate in Economics, Dr. Eric Maskin, had written a challenge letter last week affirming that the discipline of economics is no different from seismology or meteorology.  Neither of those make predictions of any accuracy, so why pick on econ theory?

In response, professional economists said they are doing true Science while the others said not so.

This post is the follow up to our Economics can never be right and the point is, Continue reading

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Economics can never be right

“What is Economics Good For?” is the provocative New York Times essay by Alex Rosenberg and Tyler Curtain.  They point is that economics is no kind of science and never can be.  This is an excellent essay and worth reading.  The basic thesis is that economics is incapable of accurate predictions.

  • Predictions of future economic changes have always been poor
  • Economics cannot improve its predictive record. (This is based on a couple of centuries of observations.)

Rosenberg and Curtain point out that economic ‘theory’ is not  Continue reading

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ABM: Under The Dome – K2B

Why spend tens of billions of US$ for ballistic missile defense if we cannot rely on it?

The previous post examined reasons, from K2B, that people ardently support massive weapons programs which do not work. K2B_txt We apply those points to the ferociously expensive anti ballistic missile program.

Short Summary:

The systems we discuss were introduced in ABM: UTD-Safeguard and ABM:UTD-Today.

  • Tactical anti ballistic deflector missiles.  Function within task definition.  

ABDs bump the attacking missile’s trajectory, swat it away from the intended target.  Gulf War (1991) Patriot missile did this to the SCUD missiles.  ABDs defend limited points of interest –  knocking the warhead aside is a success.  The deflected warhead still lands, causes ‘only’ collateral damage.

  • Tactical anti ballistic killer missiles.   Function with mixed effectiveness.

ABKs  destroy (kill) of the warhead while in flight toward its target.  The debris site is not damaged by warhead explosions.  Destroying the warhead without high explosives requires ultra high accuracy, ultra high agility, exceptionally good design. Current ABMs appear to be ABDs with occasional kills, or do not work.

This is our second review of our 4 AB killers – Continue reading

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Knights to Battleships – Ardent Support For The Unreliable

Why do people support programs that are not reliable?

LastTechAge has been reviewing anti ballistic missile defense systems.  After decades, many do not yet work as claimed but have almost violent support.  Why?  This looks like a common response especially for massive weapons systems.  Many of the arguments are the blend of three points

Over-arching Patriotism –  Support this or spit on your country.
Intellectually Frozen Attitudes – I know what’s right,  don’t tell me nothin’.
The Potemkin Gambit – I’ll weave a thin blanket to make us safe.

Over-Arching Patriotism

I think we all feel a basic unconscious feeling that bigger, more massive weapons mean safer owner(s) and Continue reading

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