A scientific study searching for evidence of time travellers from the future using Twitter has sadly failed to find any.
The study, by physicists Robert Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson of Michigan Technological University, involved looking for “prescient content” as evidence of time travel - people discussing specific things on the internet that they shouldn’t have been able to know at the time.
The researchers searched for unique phrases which would not have been in use prior to specific dates - both of them names, “Comet ISON” and “Pope Francis”. Comet ISON was discovered on September 21, 2012 and Cardinal Bergoglio was elected Pope on March 16, 2013.
As there has never been a Comet Ison or Pope Francis before, Nemiroff and Wilson hoped to remove false positives from the search - and instead find people inadvertently giving away their knowledge of the future.
Unfortunately, they didn’t find any time travellers slipping up. The only one they even thought might be a prescient comment was “an interesting speculative discussion using the term ‘Pope Francis’ in a blog post advertised by a tweet, but upon close inspection and consideration, that blog post was deemed overtly speculative and not prescient.”
We assume it’s this one - and agree with their assessment, as the blog post isn’t even about Cardinal Bergoglio, but Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley, widely considered a papal front-runner at the time.
Pope Francis I? I like that! â€œ@firstthingsmag: A Capuchin Pope? http://t.co/5Gn9TqVVJpâ€
Our own search confirmed their results: this was the only other plausible candidate for time travel we could find, but it also seems like a guess, not foreknowledge of future-historical events.
new year, new connor
I’m calling it now, next pope will be the new Pope Francis
(If Connor would like to get in touch to confirm whether or not he is from the future, that would be appreciated.)
The scientists chose to look for time travellers on Twitter after experimenting with, and rejecting, other internet platforms. A straight Google search was deemed “unreliable”, Bing “did not appear to have a sufficient ability to filter results by posting date to be useful”, Facebook’s search was “clearly not comprehensive” and Google+ “did not always order search results temporally”. Attempts to use Google Trends and NASA search logs to uncover search activity by tourists from the future also proved fruitless.
However, there is still hope of discovering time travellers on Twitter - at least, ones who have the ability to change history and don’t mind being outed.
The scientists have issued an open call to future time travellers to send a tweet with the hashtag #ICanChangeThePast2 before August 2013. Currently, no such tweets exist. So keep an eye on this search - and if anything ever appears before the end of December 2013, get in touch and ask that person about lottery numbers.