An experiment to find out whether time travellers might give themselves away on social networks by referring to events which had not happened yet, has failed to find anyone from the future.
ime travellers probably do not exist or, at least, they do not use social networks, a team of scientists has declared.
Researchers predicted that if humans in the future had discovered a way to visit the past they might leave clues on websites like Twitter and Facebook by inadvertently mentioning events which had not yet happened.
Astrophysicist Robert Nemiroff of Michigan Technological University and his team decided to trawl the internet in the hope of ‘teasing out’ time travellers.
They selected search terms relating to two recent phenomena, Pope Francis and Comet ISON, and began looking for references to them before they were known to exist on Google, Bing, Facebook and Twitter.
In the case of Comet ISON, there were no mentions before it burst on the scene in September 2012.
They discovered only one blog post referencing a Pope Francis before Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected head of the Catholic Church on March 16, but it seemed more accidental that prescient.
“In our limited search we turned up nothing,” Nemiroff said. “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 travellers were here, their existence would have already come out in some other way, maybe by posting winning lottery numbers before they were selected. “
The project came about following a card game last summer where Prof Nemiroff questioned whether time travellers would use social media and how you might find them.
“We had a whimsical little discussion about this,” said Prof Nemiroff
For their last and perhaps most ingenious effort, the researchers created a post in September 2013 asking readers to email or tweet one of two messages on or before August 2013 - “#ICanChangeThePast2” or “#ICannotChangeThePast2.”
However nobody responded to the query.
Prof Nemiroff, who normally publishes on more arcane subjects, such as gravitational lensing and gamma-ray bursts, says this recent endeavour is not as big a stretch for him as some might think.
“I’m always doing stuff on space and time,” he said, adding, “This has been a lot of fun.”
The team conducted their study on their own, without grant funding.
Their paper “Searching the Internet for Evidence of Time Travelers,” coauthored by Prof Nemiroff and physics graduate student Teresa Wilson, will be presented to the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC.