Cornell University Researchers Are Hunting For Time Travelers In Social Media

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01.07.14 12 Comments


Time travel is one of the brass rings of physics, because it’d be really cool. It also would mean that we’d better understand the fourth dimension, which is in many ways one of the great mysteries of physics. But why wait for scientists to do the heavy lifting when you could just hunt down some time travelers? At least, that’s what two researchers from Cornell have tried to do.

Robert Nemiroff and Theresa Wilson have authored a paper about how you might find time travelers in social media. The method is actually pretty simple: They just searched for incredibly common terms and checked the time stamps on them. Unfortunately, the method didn’t turn up any time travelers, according to CNN:

It appears that no one posted about his or her neighbor or acquaintance declaring the name Pope Francis early… “It’s not proof, but it’s an indication to me that it’s not possible,” Nemiroff said, referring to time travel.

If you’re interested as to why they think this would work, you can find the full study on Cornell’s website. But we can see one enormous flaw in the method; namely, if time travelers are from the future, wouldn’t they be checking the Internet before they left to see if there were any methods of time travel detection us grunting primitives would be using to look for them? Or, for that matter, wouldn’t it be a matter of historical record if a time traveler were caught, so that time traveler would never be allowed to go through time, thus making it impossible to catch a time traveler?

If that doesn’t sound complicated enough, many scientists theorize that if time travel is possible, we won’t actually be able to travel to a point in time before the time machine was invented. So we’ll be able to travel through time, but only in a limited way.

All of this is assuming that we send our corporeal forms across the voids of time. If instead it’s some sort of Butterfly Effect shtick, then, really, all bets are off. Time travelers might be among us, altering the timeline as we speak, and we won’t know because the effects are essentially unobservable. They might not even know they’re from the future. Enjoy your Tuesday!


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Dan Seitz is a grad student and freelance writer. He currently lives in Boston.

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