Time Travelers on Twitter


What if we could find time travelers through a clever series of Twitter posts?

Robert J. Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson at Michigan Technological University’s Department of Physics constructed a unique experiment searching social networks for time travelers, combing Google and Twitter for “prescient” content that only a time traveler could post.

In September 2013, they made a public post asking any time travelers to respond via a Twitter hashtag–posting either “#ICanChangeThePast2” or “#ICannotChangeThePast2” on the social network in August 2013. They hoped to generate responses one month before the original post, proving the existence of time travel. Here’s more about the Twitter hashtags:

A message incorporating the hashtagged term “#ICannotChangeThePast2” would indicate that time travel to the past is possible but that the time traveler believes that they do not have the ability to alter the authors’ past. A universe where the past cannot be changed is termed as having a “fixed history”, where history can be regarded as a single timeline. Such universes may uphold the Novikov Self-Consistency Conjecture … Conversely, a message incorporating the hashtagged term “#ICanChangeThePast2” would indicate that time travel to the past is possible and that the time traveler can demonstrate the ability to alter the authors’ past.

Facebook would not work for this experiment, since users have the ability to back-date posts. Sadly, no time travelers actively responded to the post and the scientists found no evidence of prescient content scattered around the Internet.

However, the story has generated a mountain of press coverage for the experiment, so there is still time for time travelers to respond to the hashtag request. As you can see by visiting both the “#ICanChangeThePast2” or “#ICannotChangeThePast2,” lots of Twitter writers have used the hashtag.

Can you spot any time travelers among these posts? I recommend starting with “ICannotChangeThePast2,” the place for time travelers to post if they are not able to change the past…

Unfortunately, as of this writing, no prescient tweets or emails were received. Given the additional exposure that the public listing of this manuscript gains, we will continue to search, on occasion, for active tweets and emails involving potential time travel.

You can download a free copy of “Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers” at this link.

(Image via Finlay, an illustration for “The Stars, My Brothers.”)

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