2014 Research Magazine

Time Travelers Prove Elusive

Robert Nemiroff and his students were chatting last summer, and, as often happens when physicists are involved, the conversation took an unexpected turn. They wondered: If there are time travelers among us, are they on the Internet?

So Nemiroff and graduate student Teresa Wilson developed a sleuthing strategy. They began looking for references to Pope Francis and Comet ISON before they existed. They used search engines, rummaged through Facebook and Twitter, and combed through the Astronomy Picture of the Day site, which Nemiroff co-edits.

Alas, they found no evidence of time travelers. Yet, their work yielded a brief but mighty media frenzy, including Michigan Tech’s first appearance on The Daily Show.

Nemiroff, who normally researches more arcane subjects, says this endeavor is not as big a stretch for him as some might think. “I’m always doing stuff on space and time,” he said, adding, “This has been a lot of fun.”