Maybe the information superhighway doesn't have enough road to get up to eighty-eight


Via The Economist's Babbage podcast, we are clued in to possibly the coolest research study of the new year. As explained by Tom Standage, two researchers at Michigan Technological University, Robert Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson, decided to...

...use the technology we have today, namely the Internet, to look for evidence of a technology we don't have, namely time travel.


Clever idea: they searched social media platforms for unique phrases that should not have appeared before a certain date, such as "Pope Francis" before the 2013 papal conclave, to see if anyone had used this combination of words before its time. Think of Amazon's Statistically Improbable Phrases... only make them Statistically Impossible Phrases. Survey says? No time travelers, sorry. More context from, from a social media standpoint:

[The researchers] found Twitter to be the most useful service; Google turned up too many false-positives, and Facebook allows user to backdate posts, confusing the search effort.

In other words, time travelers use Facebook.