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California is a state located on the west coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous state in the U.S., as well as the most physically diverse, with the highest and the lowest points in the lower 48 states located within 150 miles of each other. If California were an independent nation, it would have the sixth largest economy in the world (after the rest of the U.S., Japan, Germany, Britain and France). The state's official nickname is "The Golden State" in reference to California's 1849 Gold Rush. California's U.S. postal abbreviation is CA.

As one of the most demographically diverse states in the nation, California is a dominant force in American culture as well as the nation's economy. It has some of the nation's largest cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco, and is responsible for many legal and technological innovations.

The entire region originally known as California was composed of the Mexican peninsula now known as Baja California and much of the land in the current states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Wyoming, known as Alta California. In these early times, the boundaries of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast were only partially explored and California was shown on early maps as an island. The name comes from Las sergas de Esplandián (Adventures of Splandian), a 16th century novel, by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, where there is an island paradise called California.