A reason for fractal coastlines

His work on the ability of fractal drums to damp vibrations led Bernard Sapoval to suggest a mechanism responsible for the fractal form of coastlines.
The very small features of coastlines cause turbulence to start at low velocities. Sapoval concludes
    "the reason why fractal coastlines exist is precisely because they are best at damping ... waves. As the coast damps down the waves, then the erosion to which it is subjected is reduced. They are thus stabilized by their fractal structure."    
In effect, the fractal nature of the coastline evolves to maximum efficiency at damping wave action, so continued wave action is not able to induce qualitative changes in the coastline.
The same forces sculpt coastlines on many scales.

Return to Coastlines.