The Coastline Paradox

How long is the coastline of Australia? One estimate is that it’s about 12,500 km long. However the CIA world factbook puts the figure at more than double this, at over 25,700 km. How can there exist such different estimates for the same length of coastline? Well this is called the coastline paradox. Your estimate of how long the coastline is depends on the length of your measuring stick – the shorter the measuring stick the more detail you can capture and therefore the longer the coastline will be.

Fractals are typically self-similar patterns that show up everywhere around us in nature and biology. The term “fractal” was first used by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975 and used it to extend the concept of theoretical fractional dimensions to geometric patterns in nature, including the seabed.

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