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Scientists Use Twitter To Investigate Time Travel

Submitted by on January 5, 2014 – 9:17 am2 Comments
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Today’s social media users can’t even make lunch without broadcasting it to the world; but apparently, people of the future are much better at keeping things to themselves.

A light-hearted scientific study has found no evidence of time travel on Twitter. Prof. Robert Nemiroff and Ph.D candidate Teresa Wilson, physicists by training, searched the microblogging site for proof of prescient knowledge of future events, but found none.

Twitter offered the best database for the search. Facebook allows users to alter the timestamps of posts, so the timeline is not necessarily accurate; and Google+ also doesn’t necessarily order content chronologically.

The researchers looked at two search terms without historical precedent: Comet ISON and Pope Francis. Both the comet and the pontiff made major headlines this year, and both are the first and only in history to carry their moniker.

But the scientists found no mentions of either prior to their historical start dates. One tweet that did use the phrase “Pope Francis” before the current pope’s ascension was deemed “overtly speculative and not prescient.”

Of course, these methods have any number of limitations. The search terms could be to narrow- if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that time travelers want to get rich through gambling or stock trading, not discussing astronomy and religion. Or, time travelers could be staying off social media, avoiding attention. (Again, people would have to change a lot for this latter to be true.)

But maybe the researchers should be applauded for the innovative perspective and techniques, even if they still need fine tuning.

This isn’t the first scientific search for time travelers. In a 2102 interview, preeminent physicist Stephen Hawking described his experimental evidence:

I gave a party for time-travelers, but I didn’t send out the invitations until after the party. I sat there a long time, but no one came.

[via CNN]

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