This is entirely impossible to achieve

A former paratrooper is isolating on a usually uninhabited Shetland island after lockdown measures were introduced when he was on a fundraising challenge to walk the UK coastline.

As we all know, coastlines are infinite in length…..unless you’re going to cheat and ignore a certain level of granularity.

18 thoughts on “This is entirely impossible to achieve”

  1. Well not necessarily. This is like Zeno’s paradox. And we know (at least in a mathematical sense – there are still philosophical debates) that through the calculus of integration that the summing up of infinite infitesimally-small components can lead to a decidedly finite outcome.

  2. oblong – yeah and of course some infinities are smaller than others. 0.3 recurring is less than 0.4 for example.
    i wonder what to call a mathmatical pendant? – a pendangle?

  3. Depends if you think the coast is a line doesn’t it, no matter how fractal? If you allow a zone between low and high water then won’t a finite curve suffice? Though I fear such a solution isn’t practically navigable with the coves and bays separated by cliffs.

    I think in practice these walks need simply to be “near” the coast, perhaps sufficiently close that the sea is visible is a good cutoff. But if your definition includes the islands then you’re going to have to walk around a lot of islands, and aren’t a fair number going to be private?

  4. Bloke in North Dorset


    perhaps sufficiently close that the sea is visible is a good cutoff

    If you stick to the signed coast paths that can’t happen. There’s long stretches that go some way inland, if the SW Coastpath is anything to go by and I’ve done a fair chunk of it.

  5. Isn’t granularity the condition of a woman when her own offspring have children of their own?

  6. @BiND: The North Norfolk coastal path is similar. Lots of very pleasant walking with salt marsh on one side and freshwater marsh the other, but detours several miles inland in places.

  7. If he’s walking it, wouldn’t any level of detail smaller than his shoe size be ignored? Still a heck of a lot though.

  8. More to the point, how would you know when you’ve finished? All UK seaside towns look the same. Same shops. Those that aren’t closed-up & empty. Double yellow lines everywhere. Dossers with dogs on strings. The odd pensioner pushing a zimmer-frame. Rain. How would you know you’re back where you started?

  9. You gotta be careful in Shetland. Udal law still applies.

    “While in the rest of Britain ownership of land extends only to the high water mark (where the Crown is deemed to own what lies below it), in Orkney and Shetland it extends to the lowest astronomical tide.”

    And those chaps are Vikings so you don’t want to annoy them.

  10. Currently the coastline of Great Britain is composed of the limit of the surface of H2O touching the land. There are a finite number of atoms on the planet, let alone molecules of water, let alone those surrounding this sceptered isle. each molecule is a finite size.
    It follows that the length of the coastline is finite.
    This remains true even if you add in all the minor islands within our territorial waters.

    Fractals and infinite series of infinitesimals are fascinating but DO NOT apply since molecules of water are a finite size and not infinitely divisible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *