HandsOn 5  Covering a Coastline with Boxes
Thus far we have used the ruler method for measuring the dimension of a coastline. An alternative method is called the grid method or box method or covering method. The grid method is a bit more versatile than the ruler method, and can be used for different kinds of fractals. Here is how it works:
2. Take a second piece of blank paper approximately the same size
and cut out a square that just covers the entire coastline
to be measured. Call the edgelength of this square L = 16.
3. Now fold the covering square into fourths and cut along the
foldlines. Each of the four squares has an edge length L = 8.
4. Predict: How many of these L = 8 squares will it take to cover
the coastline? The word "cover'' means "cover up'': the squares
lie along the coastline without overlapping, but so that no piece of the coastline
is visible. Enter your prediction in a copy of Table 2.2.
5. Now cover the coastline with L = 8 squares and enter the result
in your copy of the table. How good was your prediction?
6. Fold each of the smaller covering squares into equal fourths and cut along
the fold lines. Predict how many of these squares of length L = 4
it will take to cover the coastline. Enter your prediction in your copy of
Table 2.2
7. Now cover the coastline with squares of L = 4 and enter the result in your
copy of Table 2.2
8. Repeat this process with squares of edgelength 2, and 1. In
each case predict the number of squares that will be needed
to cover the coastline, and enter the result in your copy of the
table before measuring and entering the actual number of squares
needed to cover the coastline. Were your predictions closer to
your measured values this time than when you predicted results
for the ruler method?
10. Get out your original loglog graph of the coastline results.
Plot the data from your copy of Table on the same graph. This
time the vertical scale will be "number of squares to cover
coastline'' and the horizontal scale will be "edge length
of square.'' Is the result approximately a straight line? If so,
is the slope of the line the same as you found using the ruler
method?
Edge length of  PREDICT:  MEASURE: 
Square  Number of Squares to cover  Number of Squares to cover 
Coastline  Coastline  
16  
8  
4  
2  
1 
