In Between! — Quotidian — 021

(Transcript of video originally posted 21 Jan 2021)


There is this trick question that we get asked once in a while. What is the length of the Indian coastline..

If you observe the map, well, from the point of view of a spacecraft flying around earth, it might be measured as, perhaps, 7500 kilometres. But, .. is that the answer?

Or, if we fly at the height of an airplane in the sky, we might be able to observe the curvature and bay of Chennai, wouldn’t it be different?

If we observe from the height of bird-flight, we might even be able to see the MGR Memorial in Marina Beach.. What would be the length of the coastline then?!

What if a man were walking along the coast, and tried to measure the coastline? There would be little mounds, twists, turns, inlets, promontories, etc.. Then?

What if we walked along, assuming the size of a puny ant?! Every little mound would be like Mount Everest, for it! Then!? Even a little rivulet of dirty water would seem like The Ganges River, The Kaveri River, to it. Then?!

Well, the mystery in this matter is pretty interesting. If you measure the coastline with a 100 km rod, it would come to about 7500 km.

If you reduce the length of the rod, it might measure up to 45000 km.

It depends on the length of the rod. If you keep reducing the length of the rod, the length of your measurement will keep on increasing!

Will it keep increasing? Is there no converging limit to it?

Yes! There is no limit! That is the wonder here! It is a physics concept. A mathematical concept too.

In fact, near Alaska, there is a place like this. Just 600 miles long, as the crow flies. But, because of the crevices, nooks, crannies, fjords, bays, backwaters, it actually measures up to 16000 miles if one walks along the water’s edge!

In physics, this is called “Fractals”. Fractional dimensions. This is a simple formula:- Z(n+1)=Z(n)**2 + c

It is the visual representation of this simple-looking formula. But, if you keep zooming, complexity seems infinite, unending, recursive, deepening. Look at the picture. As we go back and forth, zooming in and zooming out, you also notice self-similarity.. Whatever we saw in the zoomed out view is seen once again, as miniatures in the zoomed-in view too! A “point” is zero-dimensional. A “straight-line” is one-dimensional. A “flat plane” is two-dimensional. This one? Is fractional-dimensional! Fractals, they are called! Enjoy the beauty of it! Infinite complexity and self-similarity across dimensions! Born of a simple formula like that. Benoit Mandelbrot — the scientist from IBM who was working on that formula, tried to visualise how it would look, on a computer, and discovered this. Mandelbrot set, this is called. Forms the foundation for much of Chaos Theory. But the reason I brought it up for you today, is something else. Those gaps… those overlaps.. the space in-between? Is not simple. That is where interesting concepts lay hidden. That is where complexity awaits the adventurer.

If you consider the world of business itself, it is a fractal landscape. If you get an amazing idea, well, you learn soon that seven other people have already come up with it elsewhere, we shouldn’t stop! An idea here.. An idea there.. The gap between these two ideas? There will be interesting opportunities awaiting you there. That should be your quest! Quest for something interesting!

So, for example, it might look like a Feature. But, dig deeper, dwell on it further, you will be able to see that it is probably a module. Probably a product. Probably it is a whole domain by itself. So, in financial processing, for example, credit-card processing is a domain. In credit-card processing, fraud identification is a domain. Using machine-learning to identify fraud is a domain. If you keep drilling deeper, you will notice a whole universe of complexity waiting!

Take this, for example. A notebook. There are drawbacks, when you consider a notebook. There are advantages too. You can write. No power needed. But, you will run out of pages. And, you can’t digitise these notes, after having penned them down.

On the other side, you have an iPad. A tablet. You can draw digitally. But, you need to charge it. You need a special pencil stylus to write on it. That is the other end of the spectrum.

One guy came along. And, introduced the Rocketbook Wave. What is it?

Well, it is a conventional notebook, just like that, no power needed, you can use a common pen, you can write on it, holds about four hundred pages,

And then you can use the App that comes along with it, snap snap snap, and you get all your notes recorded on to the cloud.

And, if you ever run out of space in your notebook, all you need to do is microwave it! Heat it for a couple of minutes, and the notebook is clean and ready for more! For you to draw again! So, the world of notebooks and the world of tablets, an interesting remix of these two worlds, that is the in-between gap, interesting concept that I want you to explore!

All the best!




​Welcome to Quotidians — a humble attempt to bring a smile to your face… as I connect the commonplace everyday nuggets into meaningfully connected insights.

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Rajendran Dandapani

Rajendran Dandapani

Business Solutions Evangelist at Zoho Corp. President at The Zoho Schools Of Learning.

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