You can find people bragging about almost anything on the Internet these days, but apparently traveling through time isn’t one of them.
Researchers combed through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Google+ and Bing to see if anyone had mentioned people or events that occurred from the early 2000s to mid-2013 before they happened. Using terms like Pope Francis or comet ISON, the team investigated for evidence of time travelers speaking about major future events on the then present-day Internet.
The author of the study, Michigan Technological University physicist Robert Nemiroff, said the results don’t prove that time travelers aren’t real, they just show that no one is bragging about future events on the web.
According to the study’s abstract: “Time travel has captured the public imagination for much of the past century, but little has been done to actually search for time travelers. Here, three implementations of Internet searches for time travelers are described, all seeking a prescient mention of information not previously available.”
Nemiroff came up with the idea for the study while playing poker with his students.
“The first search covered prescient content placed on the Internet, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific terms in tweets on Twitter. The second search examined prescient inquiries submitted to a search engine, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific search terms submitted to a popular astronomy web site. The third search involved a request for a direct Internet communication, either by email or tweet, pre-dating to the time of the inquiry. Given practical verifiability concerns, only time travelers from the future were investigated. No time travelers were discovered. Although these negative results do not disprove time travel, given the great reach of the Internet, this search is perhaps the most comprehensive to date.”
The study is going to be submitted to several journals.
[CBS St. Louis] [Cornell University]