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Researchers attempt to unearth time travellers using social media

In a bit of news from the "we really studied this?" department, researchers from Michigan Technological University have taken a gander at various social media postings in an effort to determine whether any were made by people who would have otherwise had no knowledge of the future events they described in their posts.

If that sounds about as confusing as a flux capacitor, consider the logic: If person A posted some absurdly precise information on Facebook, for example, and that data turned out to be exactly true, then it's reasoned that said person either got extremely lucky, had advance knowledge of the event, or is from a future time period.

We'll let authors Robert J. Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson explain their three big methods for using social media in an attempt to prove time travel:

"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."

The researchers used the relatively unique phrases "Comet ISON" and "Pope Francis" to try and determine whether these were used in any significant capacity prior to their popularisation – which might suggest, in some way, that someone talking about "Pope Francis" in the year 2000 was a traveller from humanity's future.

Unfortunately for the researchers, and those looking for evidence that time travel is real, their efforts at scanning through posts on various social networks and older Google Trends didn't turn up any conclusive results. Either their searches turned up data that was more speculative in nature (as in, "Pope Francis would be an awesome name for a Pope" versus "Pope Francis will be Esquire's best-dressed man of 2013"), or data was flagged that was, itself, erroneous or unrelated to the researchers' actual search.

"In addition to searching for prescient information that time travelers might have left archived passively on the Internet, another approach used was to make a request for time travelers to actively respond to a request for a prescient communication. The main idea was not to converse with individual time travelers, but rather to encourage a single interchange indicating that time travel has become possible in the future," reads the researchers' paper.

It, too, proved fruitless – or, at least, no time travellers from the future warped back to make use of the researchers "#ICanChangeThePast2" hashtag on Twitter. When asking future time travellers to out themselves, the researchers wanted them to make a post using said hashtag prior to the idea being conceived.

The researchers maintain that the "negative results" to their litany of tests "may indicate that time travellers from the future are not among us," but they aren't willing to rule out the possibility just yet. Perhaps, they postulate, time travellers cannot leave evidence of their journeys; maybe there's some crazy, undiscovered law of physics that makes it impossible to view evidence of time travel. The list goes on.

We like our explanation: Giant, killer robots have annihilated most of humanity in the future, and our future resistance leaders are too busy Terminating to Tweet.