People Tracking Tweeting Time Travelers

People Tracking Tweeting Time Travelers

time_travel_headerTwelve hundred and eighty six days ago, as of this posting, Stephen Hawking engaged in an outlandish publicity stunt in hopes of coaxing time travelers into violating causality. Complete with champagne and caterers, tenure does have its privileges, the bash was a bust.

Less than a fortnight ago, two boffins at Michigan Technological University gave the internet a nifty Boxing Day gift. Their preprint on searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers1 has raised quite a buzz. Indeed, they may have spooked John Titor and friends with their cleverness.

Our internet is rife with stories of time travelers. The grandaddy of them all being John Titor, veteran of the Fighting Diamondbacks and popular topic on Coast to Coast AM. Among his associates are Leon Czolgosz being from 2218 or later2, the spammers Bob White and/or Tim Jones3. Others are more tongue in cheek with claims of Nic Cage4, Keanu Reeves5, and Axl Rose6 being chrononauts.

The methodology was simple, if narrow, based upon the premise of humans being fallible. Nemiroff and Wilson sought ‘prescient’ tweets using two unique terms “Comet ISON” and “Pope Francis”. The closest they came to calling out a chrononaut was a blog post A Capuchin Pope?7 speculating if Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley would be the lucky papal candidate and using the name Francis for his reign. The first mention of Comet ISON via Twitter was 25 September of 2012, 4 days after its discovery.

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My informal, and cursory, contributions to their study was searching for two other big stories from last year. #bostonbombing reveals one tweet from 23 December 20118.

bostonbombing#edwardsnowden began trending on June 9th, and the sheer volume of tweets hashtagged “snowden” only goes back as far as August 30th based on Twitter’s public capabilities.

So much for that.

The team did find some interesting things about this here internet. For example, Facebook posts can be backdated up to the date one signed up for a profile. Google keeps track of searches by popularity, not volume, so a topic searched once isn’t going to be a blip on the radar. Bing and Google+ still suck.

With hindsight being 20/20, even the dimmest bulb going on holiday in the early aughts would know about the US government’s surveillance program. What would be the impetus of publicly acknowledging an event before it happened, especially when the notice will appear on an account with fewer than 500 followers?

On the other hand, over 71 billion emails have been sent today (4/1/2014), 214 million tweets tweeted this morning, and more than a billion Google searches have been made by 0900 EST this Saturday9. Considering the aforementioned shortcomings of various social media platforms it’s a tough job tracking everyone. Even with the most robust web spidering tools from the NSA’s black toolbox, there’s a lot of noise compared to signal out there even if one’s hunting down something as prosaic as terrorists.

On the gripping hand, appreciate these future visitors may be using something better than our current technology when interacting with fellow chrononauts. Such putative gadgets and networks would sidestep concerns raised by the tinfoil hat brigade, avoiding the problem of paradoxes. Doubling down, 21st century citizens are seeking themselves from the future rather than looking for someone or something truly different. This conceit is evident with UFO phenomenon, SETI, and abductions where nothing is truly alien because we’re just looking at ourselves in a mirror hoping one day the reflection will be someone else.

If you were seeking time travellers, cryptoterrestrials, or hidden masters, what would be your methodology? Give us your two quatloos at our primitive Facebook page, Twitter, the comments below, or via node 216 on the grid using passkey “mQENBFмеLIатьHHABCADn36es28Y8梦寐alrI3V3дедFg9XOFltm/UBCc8RltчтNtEJzJrbO4”


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  1. http://arxiv.org/abs/1312.7128 

  2. http://www.creepypasta.com/leon-czolgosz/ 

  3. http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2003/08/60141?currentPage=all 

  4. http://xfinity.comcast.net/slideshow/entertainment-celebritiescivilwarlookalikes/ 

  5. http://cheezburger.com/5184338688 

  6. http://mattpagedotcom.com/hungrytt/ 

  7. http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/03/10/a-capuchin-pope/ 

  8. https://twitter.com/marklinds/status/150359669989310464 

  9. http://www.worldometers.info/ 

Chris Savia
Contributor at Week In Weird, in addition to being a member of The Anomalist's crack team of news editors and their social media maven. Chris lives near the Pine Barrens with his wife, six cats, and the Jersey Devil.
Chris Savia
Chris Savia

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Well I came back in time to pick up a couple of bottles of half-decent scotch and my glastrinator blew up…now I’m stuck in a world of grinning monkeys barely capable of knocking two rocks together. If any
of my colleagues have some spare parts with them could they please contact me via the usual methods.

I’ve seen a dating site profile and a social media profile both requesting parts due to having broken down in this time and place. Now this. Curiouser and curiouser.

Well, at least we still know how to make scotch, Marty boy!

This reminds me of something I read in Morning of the Magicians, by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. In it they speculated about the emergence of mutant super-geniuses who, following the guidelines later imposed by Professor X in the Marvel Universe, would try to conceal their presence from the rest of the dumb humans. But maybe they’d still try to send messages to each other, encoded in seemingly innocuous material like newspaper ads & the classified section of magazines. So, following that logic, I’d focus on Craigslist rather than Twitter in search of potential chrononauts –then again, if they really… Read more »

I went back in time once. I uploaded all the pics I took to Instagram and tweeted the whole thing live. At least I thought I did. I forgot there was no cellphone service or internet in Medieval Europe. I had to invent a longevity potion and wait it out since I also ran out of gas. I’ll know better this time. I’m due to invent the time machine within the next few years.

that all is impossible

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