"Eureka!" by Brian Hayes. The Sciences, November/December 2000, pages 8-11, 46-47.
"Everybody's looking for something," states this article's opening sentence. The topic is one that every Internet user has become familiar with: searching for information. Hayes moves from the keypunch cards designed by Hollerith in the 1880s, through a discussion of the efficiency of various search algorithms, to how search engines like Google work. At the end of the article he describes how he researched some of the material presented in the article. The web led him in fascinating directions, but not to where he wanted to go. "Instead, I found what I was seeking in the library, where I searched by running my finger slowly along the spines of books," he writes. The article is an artful blend of the informative and the entertaining.
--- Allyn Jackson