Photographs and messages from the future

We’ve spoken a lot here about how photograph transcends time, how it enables us to see the faces and private lives of people of the past and how there is just a hint of them realizing that we are looking at them.  I know, I know, this is starting to get just a bit mystical.  But today, I read about scientists physicists Robert Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson at Michigan Technological University asking whether people of the future might be using the internet to send information back to us. Wouldn’t it be great to get a message from the future or better still to get a photograph?  Ok maybe not!

And it all sounds bizarre, I know.  So let’s begin with the rudiments of time travel.  We move in four dimensions: the three dimensions of space: forward/back, left/right, and up and down; and we move forward in time.  The equations of physics, in general do not offer a prohibition to traveling backwards in time.  So that has been a controversial point.  Is there some constraint.  Significantly, we also know if we have people on the Earth and people in a fast moving rocket ship they both do not advance in time at the same rate.  This is not mysticism but experimental proven fact.

I should point out that some people believe that the prohibition of time reversal lies in the second law of thermodynamics, which is the tendency of physical systems (Psst, you and I are physical systems) to chaos.  Sadly, every time we move information around, like in a computer or over the internet, we push the universe that much closer to chaos and absolute zero.  Gulp!

Well anyway, what Nemiroff and Wilson did was examine whether there was any prior knowledge of two major recent events. The two events they chose were the discovery of Comet ISON in September 2012, and the selection of Pope Francis in March 2013. Because time stamps on most of the internet can be either ambiguous or tampered with they chose to study Twitter tweets.  No signs of ‘Comet ISON,’ ‘#cometison,’ ‘Pope Francis’ or “#popefrancis’ were found. Too bad!

They also issued, last September, a request for time travelers to send tweets using either the hashtag “#ICanChangeThePast2” or “#ICannotChangeThePast2” by the end of August 2013. Again nada! At least there were no tweets which predated the deadline. Of course, some have been received since.

This second “experiment” is reminiscent of one performed by famed British physicist Stephen Hawkings in 2009.  Hawkings sent out a post-dated invitation to a predated party. I’m so confused.  But you can watch the movie of Hawkings waiting patiently for his guests from the future. Unfortunately, nobody came!

Still, I like the concept of someone sending us photographs from the future – giving us a bit more than a hint that they are looking at us.  So let me set this challenge. I am writing this post on Friday, January 3, 2014.  It will post at 6:30 UT on Wednesday January 8, 2014.  So you futurians have until then to send me a message, or better yet send me a selfie from the future.


This entry was posted in Essays on Photography, Personal Photographic Wanderings.

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  1. By Involuntary time warps | Hati and Skoll Gallery on February 1, 2014 at 6:46 am

    […] have been talking at length about photography and time travel.  First, we discussed how photography gives us a glimpse into the lives of people from the past and how they almost seem t….  Then we discussed how a set of snapshots of the same person from different points in their lives […]