Globetrotting: news from around the world

The US upper middle class has fared comparatively well in recent years, a new report shows. Plus, scientists have designed a super-thin “invisibility cloak” capable of hiding tiny objects.


The upper crust gets thicker

Much has been written about the top 1% in the US — a group that saw its average income rise steeply from 1979 to 2011, reaching a high of US$2 million (in 2011 dollars) in 2007. This group is often contrasted with the other 99% of the population, whose average income seems to have stagnated during that same period.

But that is not entirely true, according to a Brookings study. There is a layer just under the top 1% that fared comparatively well. That is the upper middle class.

To go by a chart published by Brookings (reproduced above), the average income of this group, which represents about 19% of the US population, rose to just under US$200,000 in 2011 from approximately US$130,000 in 1979. By contrast, the bottom 40% of the population went from approximately US$25,000 to US$35,000.


Artful financing?

Gallery going 

Should art galleries give back only 30% of their sales to artists, instead of the traditional 50%? That’s what cultural researcher Magnus Resch has suggested — and in so doing, he’s created a Twitterstorm in the art world, reports The Art Newspaper.

According to Resch, the art world operates on an outdated business model. He conducted a survey of 8,000 art galleries in the US, UK and Germany and found that 30% are in debt. It’s time for a change, he says.

Artist William Powhida calls Resch’s 70/30 proposal “awful.” And Sylvain Levy, a collector of Chinese contemporary art in Paris, says the idea is “possibly aimed at creating controversy and thus generating sales.”


Disappearing act

Watch out, Harry Potter: science might soon take the place of magic. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have come out with a super-thin invisibility cloak that makes small objects “disappear,” reports Le Monde, based on an article in the journal Science.

The cloak, only 80 nanometres thick, uses layers of gold and magnesium fluoride to play precisely with light refraction, thereby creating the impression that the underlying object has disappeared.

For the time being, the objects being disguised are ultra small, so the cloak won’t be ready for human use anytime soon. Still, the discovery represents a “giant leap,” according to Sébastien Guenneau, a researcher at France’s Centre national de la recherche scientifique, who works in the invisibility field. “I call the cloak the ‘golden fleece.’ ”


Passage to India

Taj Mahal

In the first six months of this year, India was the leading destination for foreign investment, taking in a total of US$31 billion — US$3 billion more than China and US$4 billion more than the US, according to reports in and the Financial Times.

To explain the influx in foreign investment, economists point to the influence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his “Made in India” program that he launched last year.