Word on the Google Blog that they’ve improved the underlying algorithm used with their wildcard (*) search operator.
This includes allowing softer pattern matching, if necessary, and promoting results in which the blank filler is relatively more frequent in the context of the query.
I’ve been writing about the wildcard matching feature from Google since 2002. Earlier this year, Greg posted about problems with this feature. Hopefully, todays’s upgrade will not only fix the problem but make the service even more useful. We’re still hoping that Google and other engines bring back a proximity operator that AltaVista once offered. Exalead is the only web engine that I know of that currently provides this feature that if used correctly can help provide more precise results.