Speed daters move from table to table in timed increments. See more love images.

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You've probably heard of speed dating by now. It has so permeated Western popular culture that even those who aren't looking for love know what it is. The concept was introduced to the American dating scene at the turn of the 20th century by Rabbi Yaacov Deyo and his wife, Sue, who founded their own service, SpeedDating. The service is based on an old Jewish tradition: helping young, single Jews meet others in the faith. This tradition of creating a shidduch, or a match, called for Jewish singles to be kept in the dark about each other until the time for matchmaking came.

Today, modern speed dating is still rooted in shidduch, but with formal dating services replacing the role of the Rabbi and his wife as matchmakers. These services compile the data from brief encounters between daters and then inform each attendee of the results, allowing interested parties that scored a "match" to pursue another meeting with each other.

The original SpeedDating service is still intended to help those of the Jewish faith find a shidduch. However, others have extended their scope to include people of all religions, shapes, sizes, interests and sexual orientations. SpeedDating and its offshoots have captured the imagination of popular culture, fitting nicely into the fast-paced environment of 21st-century America.

In 2000, the dating technique reached craze status, spreading quickly to rest of the Western world, taking strong footholds in both England and Australia. Although its overall popularity in the United States may have waned in recent years, it has become an established and accepted form of dating, with speed-dating events held in cities throughout the U.S.

Some cottage industries have even sprouted from the speed-dating theme, including Web sites dedicated to tips for successful speed dating. One site offers hypnosis downloads -- tailored for men or women -- that boast a calming influence to create the best possible attitude for speed dating.

So what is speed dating, and more specifically, how does speed dating work? Perhaps even more importantly, does speed dating work? Read on to learn more about this old Jewish tradition that has become an international phenomenon.­