Given the option to travel back in time, most people generally would generally commit some combination of lottery fraud, evil dictator slaying, and otherwise trying to avoid disrupting the spacetime continuum. For the sake of science though, two physicists are hoping that, no matter what you do, you at least find some time to tweet — so they can find you.
The two physicists in question, Robert Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson from Michigan Technological University, aren't just hoping it's Twitter that our quantum visitors have a propensity, though. Their new study, "Searching the Internet for evidence of time travellers", saw them scouring the likes of Facebook, Google, Google+, and, yes, even Bing in the hopes of finding the digital remains of curious (or just follower hungry) time travellers.
The study took place this past August, during which time Nemiroff and Wilson searched all over the internet for posts made between January 2006 and September 2013 that made some mention of two terms that would have absolutely no reason for entering the public lexicon: Pope Francis and Comet ISON. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the very first pope to have ever taken on the name Francis, and and no other comet bears ISON's name. By their logic, anyone making note either occurrence would then surely have come from a time yet to come
Unfortunately, being the internet, nothing they found was necessarily reliable — not exactly ideal in a scientific study. On Facebook, posts have the option to be backdated, which would have made any discoveries of prescient prophecies virtually untrustworthy. When looking through Google, the paper notes:
A time traveller might have been trying to collect historical information that did not survive into the future, or might have searched for a prescient term because they erroneously thought that a given event had already occurred, or searched to see whether a given event was yet to occur.
But unfortunately, the hunt came up blank. Not that that necessarily means time travellers aren't here, but if they are, they're at least smart enough to keep their mouths shut where it counts. [New Statesman]