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Dr Alistair Brown
Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Scotland Trip: Falkirk

Photograph of the Falkirk Wheel
Falkirk Wheel, Falkirk

From the rocking of a boat in the wild sea, to the smooth calm of a canal today, as we drive from Wooler to Falkirk, to see the famous wheel. This seems somewhat misnamed, as its main part is not straightforwardly round, but resembles a pair of vampiric, steel incisors. The wheel name is perhaps more appropriate for its symbolic role as the lynchpin in an 85 million waterways project to reconnect the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. Historically, the two had been joined by a series of eleven lochs, but having been dismantled in 1933, a new structure was required to reconnect the two when the project was undertaken to commemorate the Millennium.

What resulted was the world's first and only rotating boat lift. As with all the finest engineering, though, what looks immensely complex is actually based on a very simple principle. A boat enters a gondola from an aqueduct running off the Union canal at the top, and another enters an identical gondola from the Forth and Clyde below. With the two balanced, a tiny motor not larger than the one in a household washing machine is able to rotate the entire array of gondolas and cogs. The ingenious efficiency of the engineering is matched by the elegance of the design when it is in motion, as with its curves and cut-out circles, thousands of tons of steel and concrete seem to float poised in the air, before swinging to earth in an unstressed rotation.

Photograph of a common newt
Common Lizard, Falkirk

Quiet, too, are the canals along which we take a walk, to be rewarded with the sight of a large newt. Lying on our fronts across the towpath like absorbed kids, we spend half an hour watching closely as the lizard, glistening, basks in the sun.

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This page was published on July 2011 | Keywords: Falkirk, Scotland, Falkirk Wheel, canal

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