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Entries in Wolfram|Alpha (1)


And You Thought I Was Smart!

Apple iPadAs I reported on my Facebook page yesterday, I received an email shipping notification from Apple stating that my iPad had shipped. As is typically the case with a shipping notification, based on the tracking number, UPS stated it had no notion of the packages location initially but did state it was aware of the shipment. So this morning I checked again.

I expected the package to have originated from the Bay Area of California. Silly me, I was wrong.

Here is the tracking information:



Local Time





9:45 P.M.




9:42 P.M.




4:45 P.M.


Tracking results provided by UPS:  03/30/2010 1:33 P.M.  ET

Turns out the iPad is being shipped directly from the country of manufacture, China!

That got me to thinking about the journey my iPads are on:

  • Where the heck is Shenzhen?
  • How far away is it?
  • How long would a direct flight from there to my home take?
  • If my iPad were sound, how long would it take to reach me?
  • Better yet, if my iPad were light traveling in fiber, or even in a vacuum, how long would it take to reach me?

I know, these are the standard questions everyone asks themselves when the are waiting for a package to be delivered.  Sorry if I am boring you…

Where does one turn to glean the answers to the questions that plagued me? Had I any math skills whatsoever, I could probably compute the answers myself, but I have none. (I grew up during the computer revolution.) Instead I have THE INTERNET! The Wizard of Oz can’t even match the internet.

I took to my iPhone an called up one of my dearest and most interesting applications. That application is called Wolfram|Alpha which is a front-end to a unique query/answer engine of the same name that is described by its creators, Wolfram Research, as a “computational knowledge engine.” Now I can’t do the engine, nor its inventors, any justice with a description here. Your best bet is check it out firsthand and walk through some of their demonstration queries to get a glimpse of the stunning and valuable contribution they have made to the web and its users. So, back to my story…

I “asked” Wolfram|Alpha about the distance between Shenzhen, China and Ontario, California, my hometown. Here is the output from my query:

Results from “Ontario, CA to SHENZHEN” query asked through Wolfram|Alpha

Pretty cool, huh?  When my iPad finally reaches me on Saturday it will have traveled over 7,300 miles and nearly 1/3 of the circumference of the earth.
And you thought I was smart!