RJN wrote:It is difficult to rule out time travel on purely theoretical grounds.
Thus, it is reasonable to base your hypothesis on the assumption that time travel of some sort is possible. No need to worry about mechanisms, beyond perhaps pointing out that the minimum requirement is some system that allows computers in the past to be manipulated; there's no requirement that actual time travelers exist.
First, that AOL search page seemed like it might be a good place to search for an inadvertant display of future knowledge. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to work for me. Can anyone?
Do you have a Torrent app installed? If not, try this page
for some other sites where the data is directly available.
I would like to try to keep this moving toward a concrete goal if possible -- that of publishing a journal paper. To do that we need to define a specific experiment or set of experiments that can be done, execute those experiments, and describe the results in a paper for all to read. The experiment I propose is to look for evidence of pre-knowledge in search engine data bases.
I'd start by considering who our hypothetical time travelers might be, and what they would be looking for. Assuming they come from a society not radically different from our own, the most likely possibilities would be (1) some sort of government sponsored agents- military or civilian scientists analogous to NASA, or (2) some sort of academics- university researchers or graduate students. I doubt that any of these will be much interested in checking science data (such as the supernova question). Their science will pretty obviously be a superset of our own, and the history of modern science tends to be very well documented. Given this time travel technology, I think it will be the historians who would have the greatest motivation to use it. There are all these big historical questions that continue to fascinate people: was Tutankhamun murdered, was there a real Jesus, did Roosevelt know about the attack on Pearl Harbor before it happened, was there a conspiracy to kill JFK?
I'd design the experiment by coming up with one or two major recent events that are likely to be of long lasting historical interest, and which have left significant unanswered questions (the earlier examples would be studied using something other than the Internet, of course). Let's take as an example the 9/11 terrorist acts. A future researcher with time travel technology might look for evidence of the terrorists in the U.S. before the attacks, using Internet search tools. You would look for a statistically significant increase in search activity based on carefully identified terms (WTC, fire escapes, commercial pilot schools, etc). You'd also need a good control- something of historical interest but with no mystery associated with it. You would need to secure access to search logs (I'd think Google would be best) providing somewhat more information than is available through the usual interface. At a minimum, you'd need search terms and dates, since you would only be interested in searches conducted before 9/11/2001.
To summarize the experiment design:
(1) Identify a recent (post-Internet) event likely to be of long term historical interest, and for which many questions remain unanswered.
(2) Identify a recent event likely to be of long term historical interest, but not likely to be a subject of future research (the control event).
(3) Identify likely key words and phrases for both events that would likely be used before the events to study their precursors.
(4) Examine the logs of one or more major search engines for a statistically interesting increase in the use of these key words occurring before each event.