# Can someone explain the coastal paradox and infinite shoreline theory?

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How can a finite area like Great Britain have an infinite length edge?

In: Mathematics

It’s a measure of *exactness*, and larger lines/units of measurement giving general, less exact “true” measure. The [wiki](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastline_paradox) article actually does a great job of describing it already.

How *exactingly* do we measure the coastline–and what units do we use (kilometers/miles, meters/yards? Centimeters/inches)?

With a surveyor’s device, from mile to mile (or kilometer to kilometer)? It’s one length.

Do we send a guy with a tape measure (or one of those wheeled distance-measuring devices), and tell him, at some arbitrary point of the day every day, walk out from *this point*, and “hug the coastline” (which is *always* changing due to tidal forces and erosion, *natch*), and measure it *that way*? You’ll get *another* total.

Do we send someone out with a *flexible* tape measure that you use to measure fabric–the kind that you can roll up? So they can “hug the coastline” (ha!) You’d get an even larger, different total length.

Like Pi, depending on the level of exactness you demand, it could be a never-ending total. Add to this that the *thing you’re measuring* is changing, *while you try to measure it*.

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