Time Travelers On The Internet? Researchers Find No Evidence
January 5, 2014

Researchers Comb Social Media For Evidence Of Time Travel

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Given how fascinated our culture is with both social media and time travel, wouldn’t someone who actually had a Tardis or a tricked-out DeLorean be tweeting about or sharing pictures of his/her experiences? That’s exactly what the authors of a new study tried to find out.

In an attempt to locate some evidence of time travel, Michigan Technological University physics professor Robert Nemiroff and graduate student Teresa Wilson scoured the Internet. They checked out search engines and sites such as Facebook and Twitter for mentions of things or events before people should have known about them, indicating they may have come from the future.

With so much information available online, Nemiroff and Wilson decided on two specific items of information and searched for references to those subjects that pre-dated their entry into the common lexicon: Comet ISON and Pope Francis. They then looked for references to either subject occurring between January 2006 and September 2013.

“Before the identification of comet ISON in 2012, there were no mentions that the researchers could find of this icy space rock,” said CNN.com’s Elizabeth Landau. “Similarly, before Jorge Bergoglio took on his papal name in 2013, the phrase ‘Pope Francis’ did not appear in the researchers' search results, except for one person's blog, which appears to have been speculating – not remembering something from the future.”

ISON was the only comet to bear that name, and Bergoglio was the first pope to ever select the name Francis when he was elected on March 16, Gizmodo writer Ashley Feinberg explained. The researchers conducted an “exhaustive” analysis, using not only social media sites but also a variety of search engines, including Google and Bing, but came up empty.

While the researchers expected that Twitter, which does not allow users to backdate tweets, would be a good source of information, initially they thought Google was a treasure-trove of time-travel tidbits as well, according to CNET’s Amanda Kooser. However, what at first appeared to be a “surprising number of Web pages that contained seemingly prescient information” turned out to be older news stories featuring newer advertising content.

Nemiroff and Wilson, who will present their findings at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Washington, DC on Monday, made one last, desperate attempt to contact time-travelers through social media. They created a post in September asking readers to either tweet or email messages featuring either “#ICanChangeThePast2” or “#ICannotChangeThePast2” before August of that year. Sadly, there were no responses.

“In our limited search we turned up nothing,” said Nemiroff, an astrophysicist by trade. “I didn’t really think we would. But I’m still not aware of anyone undertaking a search like this. The Internet is essentially a vast database, and I thought that if time travelers were here, their existence would have already come out in some other way, maybe by posting winning lottery numbers before they were selected.”

He isn’t too disappointed with the outcome, however: “This has been a lot of fun.”