Saturday, January 2, 2010

The length of a coastline

The length of a coastline,” a marine biologist told me, “depends on the scale you use.” It takes a while to figure this out. If you had a map of India the size of an A4 sheet, and a ruler that measured only in inches, your measurement would ignore all the small bays that make South Goa so interesting, and most of our fishing harbours. If, however, you could get a map that covered the floor of a large room, and a flexible scale marked down to millimeters, you would pick up all the little inlets and the jutting promontories.
Suddenly, the coast line would be so much longer. And, if you extended this logic further, to a string that went around every rock and mangrove tree, a third, much longer coastline!

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