Looking for Time Travelers… on Twitter!

DoctorWho_TardisIf time travelers were real, a la Doctor Who or Doc Emmett Brown style, how would they go about sharing their gift with the world? According to astrophysicist Robert Nemiroff and physics graduate student Teresa Wilson at Michigan Technological University, they would tweet about it. And so, the two began what has proven to be one of the most interesting searches on today’s social media.

To break it down succinctly, the pair began to search the backlogs of Facebook and Twitter for any indications of time travellers posting about the future. This they did by entering search terms for two major events – the appearance Comet ISON in September of 2012 and the election of Pope Francis in March 2013 – to see if there was any mention of them before they happened.

comet_ISONTheir theory, as presented in a paper published last month on Cornell University’s Library website, was that if there were any postings containing “Comet ISON,” “#cometison,” “Pope Francis” or “#popefrancis” from before those dates, they may very well be from a time traveler. Unfortunately, their searchers on Facebook turned up results which, in their own words, “were clearly not comprehensive.

Granted, a time-traveler would be quick to delete any status updates that appeared prescient, using Facebook’s new Graph Search privacy features. However, the the time-traveler hunting due had no better luck on Twitter, where a majority of people keep their tweets public. But of course, they went on to say in their paper that just because they didn’t see any time travelers doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

time-slipAs they argue it, it might not be possible for time travelers to leave any evidence of their journey behind.

…it may be physically impossible for us to find such information as that would violate some yet-unknown law of physics… time travelers may not want to be found, and may be good at covering their tracks.

Another thing to consider is that time travelers might actively try to erase any mention of their existence. For example, in the first season of the Doctor Who reboot, where the Doctor used a special virus to delete any digital trace of himself before leaving the present age. It’s academic stuff really, and the pair really shouldn’t have expected such careless errors to show up on the internet.

the_time_machine_croppedAnd as Donald Rumsfeld, another man who went searching for something and came up empty, said: “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence”. Yes, I know, the comparison really doesn’t help, does it? And right now, I’m sure you might be wondering if all those tax dollars that fund research grants might be better used elsewhere.

And let’s face it, it’s something many of us would wonder, and possible check for ourselves, given half a chance…

Sources: universetoday.com, huffingtonpost.com

4 thoughts on “Looking for Time Travelers… on Twitter!

  1. I think the fear that something left behind might cause irrevocable changes to the timeline is enough to keep most time travelers from letting people know of their presence.
    By the way, have you been watching Doctor Who? Because if you have, we are looong overdue for a discussion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s