April 2019

Contents Related Letters

Re: “A Big Bang of Physics” by Dan Falk (March 2019)

It was a pleasure, and a challenge, to read and review five books on quantum mechanics. The good news is that my summary of the relevant physics appears to be okay. But a few biographical slip-ups crept in during the editing process. While Canada sometimes tries to claim Lee Smolin as one of its own, the Toronto-based physicist (who holds a faculty position at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics) is technically American. Anil Ananthaswamy, meanwhile, is not based in London but divides his time between Berkeley, California, and Bangalore. And although Jim Baggott has a doctorate in chemical physics from the University of Oxford, he is not affiliated with Oxford and identifies himself as a science writer.
I regret the errors, and I blame the Uncertainty Principle.

A further clarification: The LRC identified Penguin Press as the publisher of Lee Smolin’s Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution. That’s true in the United States, but in this parallel universe, the book is published by Knopf Canada.

Dan Falk
Toronto


Re: “A Big Bang of Physics” by Dan Falk (March 2019)

There must surely be a medal for working your way through five books at once (pun intended).

@JimBaggott
Via Twitter


Re: “A Big Bang of Physics” by Dan Falk (March 2019)

Not only a nice review and all-round piece, but a staggering effort. Dan, you must be hoping never to read about superposition ever again.
@PhillipCBall
Via Twitter


Re: “Better Voters” by Elizabeth May (March 2019)

This is a decent review — except the last line kinda bungles it. We need to save democracy from partisanship, not “politics.” @David_Moscrop @ElizabethMay
@TimAbray
Via Twitter


Re: “Better Voters” by Elizabeth May (March 2019)

Our democracies were designed before anthropogenic climate change, nuclear weapons, geo­engineering, ecology, and internet propaganda. Maybe we need states, constitutions, institutions, and political philosophies that do not find their primary texts in the nineteenth century. @LRCmag @ElizabethMay @David_Moscrop
@BenClarkson
Via Twitter


Re: “‘Scots Wha Hae’” by Chris Alexander (January-February 2019)

My admiration for this well-­written and most ­interesting book review by Chris Alexander, with one caveat: my usual dismay at the ­subject.
In my many years of researching the old Highland Scottish settlement of Glengarry, Ontario, I have yet to discover any connection between it and the fabled Highland clearances. I don’t deny the clearances existed, but I suppose their magnitude has been wildly exaggerated by a multitude of authors. Victimhood is lovely — ­retrospectively — in its sweet, dire way. But what of the facts?

Royce MacGillivray
Ottawa


Re: “‘Scots Wha Hae’” by Chris Alexander (January-February 2019)

I have a bone to pick with Chris Alexander’s review: he elides one of the main points that T. M. Devine makes in The Scottish Clearances: A  History of the Dispossessed. Devine makes it clear that the Highland clearances were different than the Lowland clearances because they ruptured a way of life. It was a way of life embedded in the land, oral tradition, and the Gaelic language. Devine makes his case in a muted tone, so it’s possible to miss his point; other reviews have named it, however, and it’s supported by recent scholarship.
The “rigs” that Alexander says the cottars farmed were part of a long-evolved pattern of sharing the use and management of land, through self-governing townships known as fermetouns. Even when land came to be controlled on paper through the feu charters of the feudal period, local legislation like the Leases Act of 1449 protected the people who had traditionally inhabited and worked the ground. The new concept of a lease on land was considered a “trust unit.”
John Locke helped turn “land” into a commercial concept. Through his philosophy of changing land into private property, it was “improved” through the addition of labour, and it could yield a profit. More than any other, this idea of modifying land to make it profitable in an emerging commercial era drove the clearances.
I also want to highlight the continuity of local self-governance here in Canada. Consider the self-­organized township meetings in Upper Canada during the settler-­colonial era. It was through these meetings that Robert Gourlay circulated his famous survey on the problems affecting rural development in the early 1830s. A coherent sense of shared grievance over absentee large-scale landowners and related transportation problems emerged, helping ignite the 1837 Rebellion. Thousands of Scots, ­displaced from their ­ancestral lands through the “improvement” rationalization of the clearances, participated in the displacement of the Indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands in many places, including modern-day Ontario.

Heather Menzies
Ottawa


Re: “The Superpower Next Door,” by Krzysztof Pelc

Professor Pelc claims that George W. Bush’s policies “look mild compared with the current president’s assault on global governance.” That’s only if you exclude his massively murderous invasion of Iraq. For all of Donald Trump’s attacks, his body count, including civilians and enemy combatants, pales in comparison to that of almost all his recent predecessors.

Murray Reiss
Salt Spring Island, BC


The Literary Review of Canada welcomes your comments and feedback, which we may edit for length, clarity, and accuracy. Write to letters@reviewcanada.ca.

Download This Issue in PDF Format

to read it in its entirety