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Search Time Travelers on the Web

Doctor Who

Time travelers like Doctor Who is highly likely not to be existed. Of course, they could be around us but have no time to use the Internet, because a new study found no evidence to prove their existence on the web. *Image source: comicvine.com.

You can Google everything on the Internet, don’t you? However, a recent study found that you can’t find evidence to prove time travelers’ existence.

To introduce their research, astrophysicist Robert Nemiroff and his graduate student Teresa Wilson, gave a presentation in the title of “Searching the Internet for Evidence of Time Travelers” on Jan. 6, at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC.

It all started over a poker game. In summer 2013, when Nemiroff and his students were playing cards, they chatted about Facebook and wondered: If there were time travelers among us, would they use social media? How can we find them? Could you Google them?

“We had a whimsical little discussion about this,” said Nemiroff. The result was a fun-but-serious effort to tease out travelers visiting from the future by sifting through the Internet.

Of course, you can’t just put out a cattle call for time travelers and expect good results. Therefore, Nemiroff’s team developed a search strategy based on what they call prescient knowledge. If they could find a mention of someone or something on the web before people should have known about it, that might indicate that whoever wrote it had traveled from the future.

They selected two recent phenomena, Comet ISON and Pope Francis, and began looking for references to them before they were known to exist. Their exhaustive work includes using a variety of search engines like Google and Bing, and combing through Facebook and Twitter.

In the case of Comet ISON, there were no mentions of it before it burst on the scene in September 2012. They only found one blog post referencing a Pope Francis before Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the head of Catholic Church on March 16, however, this appeared more like accidental than prescient.

They also conducted searches for prescient inquiries submitted to search engines and combed through the Astronomy Picture of the Day site, which Nemiroff co-edits. Unfortunately, still no luck.

Search time traveler

Nemiroff and his students never actually expected to see a tweet like this, but they definitely enjoyed their efforts to find evidence of time travelers on the web. *Image source: mtu.edu.

As their last and probably most ingenious effort, the researchers created a post in September 2013 requesting readers to tweet or email either of the two messages on or prior to August 2013:”#ICanChangeThePast2” or “#ICannotChangeThePast2.”Alas, this invitation went unanswered.

 “In this limited search, we turned up nothing,” said Nemiroff. “I did not really think we would. However, I’m still not aware of others undertaking a similar search. The Internet is a vast database in essence, and I thought that if time travelers were there, their whereabouts would have been exposed in some other way, maybe by posting winning lottery numbers before the numbers were selected.”

After all, none of the lottery winners by far has committed that they won the lottery by traveling from the future.