John Titor's military insignia
|Full name||John Titor|
|Occupation||Time traveler from 2036, military soldier|
John Titor is the name used on several bulletin boards during 2000 and 2001 by a poster claiming to be a military time traveler from 2036. In these posts, Titor made numerous predictions about future events, some vague and some quite specific, starting with events in 2004. He described a drastically changed future in which the United States had broken up into five smaller regions, the environment and infrastructure had been devastated by a nuclear attack, and most other world powers had been destroyed. Before the timeframe of his predicted events came and went, Titor's story invoked curiosity and received attention around the world. In the decade following his appearances on the internet, fiction and music were written about the character, and his origins were investigated by journalists and others.
The case also provoked widespread skepticism. Flaws were observed in Titor's stories, and none of the specific events he predicted actually occurred. This led to the general conclusion that his story was probably an elaborate hoax. A 2009 investigation suggested that Titor was likely the creation of Larry Haber, a Florida entertainment lawyer, along with his brother John, a computer scientist. Eventually, Joseph Matheny claimed to be part of a group who invented and produced the story.
The first posts using John Titor's military symbol appeared on the Time Travel Institute forums on November 2, 2000, under the name TimeTravel_0. At that time the name "John Titor" was not being used. The posts discussed time travel in general, the first one being the "six parts" description of what a time machine would need to have to work (see below) and responses to questions about how such a machine would work. Early messages tended to be short.
The name "John Titor" was not introduced until January 2001, when TimeTravel_0 began posting at the Art Bell BBS Forums (which required a name or pseudonym for every account). The Titor posts ended in late March 2001.
Around 2003, various websites reproduced Titor's posts, re-arranging them into narratives. Not all refer to the original dates posted.
In his online postings, Titor claimed to be an American soldier from 2036, based in Tampa in Hillsborough County, Florida, assigned to a governmental time-travel project. Purportedly, Titor had been sent back to 1975 to retrieve an IBM 5100 computer which he said was needed to debug various legacy computer programs in 2036; a possible reference to the UNIX year 2038 problem. The IBM 5100 runs the APL and BASIC programming languages.
Titor had been selected for this mission specifically, given that his paternal grandfather was directly involved with the assembly and programming of the 5100. Titor claimed to be on a stopover in the year 2000 for "personal reasons," to collect pictures lost in the (future) civil war and to visit his family, of whom he spoke often.
Titor also said he had been, for a few months, trying to alert anyone that would listen about the threat of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease spread through beef products and about the possibility of civil war within the United States. When questioned about them by an online subscriber, Titor also expressed an interest in mysteries such as UFOs, which remained unexplained in his time. Titor suggested that UFOs and extraterrestrials might be travelers from much further into the future than his own time, with superior time machines.
Titor described his time machine on several occasions. In an early post, he described it as a "stationary mass, temporal displacement unit powered by two top-spin, dual positive singularities", producing a "standard off-set Tipler sinusoid".
The earliest post was more explicit, saying it contained the following:
- Two magnetic housing units for the dual micro singularities
- An electron injection manifold to alter mass and gravity of the micro singularities
- A cooling and X-ray venting system
- Gravity sensors, or a variable gravity lock
- Four main cesium clocks
- Three main computer units
According to the posts, the device was installed in the rear of a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible and later moved to a 1987 truck having four-wheel drive.
Titor shared several scans of the manual of a "C204 Time Displacement Unit" with diagrams and schematics, and posted some photographs of the device installed in the car.
Titor claimed that the "Everett–Wheeler model of quantum physics," better known as the many-worlds interpretation, was correct. The model posits that every possible outcome of a quantum decision occurs in a separate "universe." Titor stated that this was the reason the grandfather paradox would not happen; following the logic of the argument, Titor would be killing a different John Titor's grandfather in a timeline other than his own.
...The grandfather paradox is impossible.
In fact, all paradox is impossible. The Everett–Wheeler–Graham or multiple world theory is correct.
All possible quantum states, events, possibilities, and outcomes are real, eventual, and occurring.
The chances of everything happening someplace at sometime in the superverse is 100%.
Although invoking the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, whereby events from his timeline may differ from our own, Titor also expressed assurance that the differences were minimal. As such, his descriptions have been interpreted as predictions and compared with historical events since 2001.
The most immediate of Titor's predictions was of an upcoming civil war in the United States having to do with "order and rights". He described it as beginning in 2004, with civil unrest surrounding the presidential election of that year. This civil conflict that he characterized as "having a Waco type event every month that steadily gets worse" would be "pretty much at everyone's doorstep" and erupt by 2008.
As a result of the war, the United States would split into five regions based on various factors and differing military objectives. This civil war, according to Titor, would end in 2015 with a brief but intense World War III.
Titor refers to the exchange as "N Day". Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville, Florida are specifically mentioned as being hit. After the war, Omaha, Nebraska would be the new U.S. capital. Titor was vague as to the exact motivations and causes for World War III. At one point, he characterized the hostilities as being led by "border clashes and overpopulation". He also pointed to contemporary conflict between Arabs and Israel as not a cause, but rather a milestone that precedes a World War III.
Titor claimed that as a 13-year-old in 2011, he joined the Fighting Diamondbacks, a shotgun infantry unit in Florida, for at least four years. In other posts, he described himself as hiding from the war.
Criticism and discussion
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As Titor brought significant attention, there also emerged analysis and discussion concerning the veracity of his claims about his origins and mission, and the future events he talked about. No John Titor or Titor family is known to exist, meaning that who posted as Titor used a pseudonym. The story has been called inconsistent as contradictions between statements at different times have been observed. Holding the many-worlds interpretation as correct, Titor claimed that his mission as a time traveler was to shape a timeline in which many chaotic events of his time, including World War III and the civil war in the US, never happened. In some supposed Titor's appearances in the internet and other media segments prior to his main posts (notably in faxes to the radio talk show Coast to Coast AM in 1998), he stated that he was not able to change the future despite his efforts, suggesting one of the possible contradictions. Nevertheless, none of the specific events he predicted to a near future, chaotic or not, have come to happen (see below).
Some issues with the technology have also been considered. In one of Titor's pictures of a supposed time machine, a laser beam is seen, but it does not distort nearby objects as it should according to physics. Also, Titor knew about technical features of the IBM 5100 which were not available to the public at the time, albeit widely commented in the industry, suggesting he had some advanced understanding of the machine or computers in general.
One of Titor's earliest assertions was that CERN would discover the basis for time travel sometime around 2001, with the creation of miniature black holes about half a year after his departure. This did not occur. An article published around the time he had predicted about miniature black holes created by CERN (a recurring theme, also ascribed to Fermilab and Brookhaven at various times) was taken by some to be evidence of this claim, but these events did not occur either.
However, because Titor asserted that the many-worlds interpretation was proved correct by his time, his predictions could refer to another timeline and not ours, making them unfalsifiable. This led to different interpretations, including that he had effectively accomplished his mission by creating another timeline (despite his supposed previous statements that it would be too difficult), or that he inadvertently traveled to a different timeline (ours) and mistook it as his own, or that all time travel is pointless if the chaotic timeline would not cease to exist.
Story and consistency
Potential contradictions have been observed in different Titor's posts. In some of the posts, he claims that he was homeschooled, while in others he states that his basic education was conducted in the University of Florida. Similarly, he stated that he hid himself during the civil war in the US, while also stating in other instances that he fought in the war. In some posts, he claims that money is widely used and people still have credit cards, despite his statement that centralized banking no longer exists (this is either an inconsistency or implies the rise of private currencies).
Titor's story could also have been inspired by science fiction works. The use of an automobile as a time machine, for example, had been a key plot device in the popular 1985 movie Back to the Future and its sequels (as the DeLorean sports car), among others. Additionally, commentators have pointed out similarities between the Titor story and Pat Frank's classic post-apocalyptic science fiction novel Alas, Babylon.[dead link] Among other similarities, Alas, Babylon takes place in a small river-side town in Florida just before and after a nuclear war and describes the struggle to survive as a family in the aftermath. In the book, the protagonist lives in the fictional town of "Fort Repose", while Titor claimed to live in the "Fort", formerly the University of Florida.
Some suggested that, yet in the summer of 1998 prior to his posts, Titor sent two faxes to Art Bell's radio program Coast to Coast AM, stating that "Y2K is a disaster. Many people freeze to death trying to get to warmer weather. The gov. tries to keep power by instituting martial law..."[dead link] referring to popular legends of the time about the Y2K bug.
In the online story, Titor stated that a part of his mission was to prevent the coming world war by changing history. Yet during an IRC chat in October 2000, a month before he began posting, Titor was asked if the future could be changed from his predictions, and answered "It's too late … I just wish things didn't have to happen the way they will." That would also explain why the second American Civil War never happened nor all the "nightmare" United States that was in his timeline. People would just look at the posts and do whatever they could to prevent it "in advance"."[dead link]
Titor provided an image of a detail of a supposed time machine, with a laser pointer beam "being bent by the gravitational field produced outside the vehicle by the distortion unit". The beam being "bent" reveals an inconsistency of objects near the beam not appearing to be bent as well: the framing of the window visible in the background, for instance, should appear distorted in proximity to a large gravity gradient, but it does not. Some have speculated the "beam" is an optical fiber.
Titor claimed that he was sent back to obtain an IBM 5100 because it could translate several types of computer code. According to IBM engineer Bob Dubke, Titor's statements regarding the IBM 5100's little-known ability to emulate and debug mainframe systems were correct.[dead link] Supporters state that this information was not publicly available in 2000 or 2001 when Titor made his declaration, and Titor himself stated that this feature was "discovered" as late as 2036 when Unix, as the underlying source behind all computer operating systems still running local infrastructures and other computational tasks, was only two years away from no longer functioning due to 32-bit integer limitations. However, this emulation capability was widely known in the industry and commented on in depth in numerous publications dealing with both the 5100 and programmable microcode in general. References to this were also available on the Internet as early as 1999 and therefore predated Titor's postings. This is a fairly obscure bit of trivia, however, which suggests that whoever was making the posts either was familiar with the machine specifically or else had at least a general interest in retrocomputing.
An Italian television program, Voyager – Ai confini della conoscenza, aired the results of an investigation of John Titor on May 19, 2008. Private investigator Mike Lynch found no registry evidence, past or present, of any individual named John Titor. He did, however, identify the John Titor Foundation, a for-profit company formed on September 16, 2003, with no office or address other than a rented post box in Kissimmee, Florida. An IP address connected with Titor also geolocated to Kissimmee.[dead link]
In 2009, a report by John Hughston of the Hoax Hunter website named Larry Haber, a Florida entertainment lawyer, as the CEO of the foundation. Lynch concluded that Haber and his brother John Rick Haber, a computer scientist, were very likely the men behind John Titor, whom they actually introduced in 1998, accompanied by different predictions, including chaos due to the Y2K "bug".
In popular culture
- In 2003, the John Titor Foundation published a book, John Titor: A Time Traveler's Tale (ISBN 1-59196-436-9), discussing his claims; the book is now out of print.
- In 2004, Time Traveler Zero Zero, a play based on the John Titor story, was staged in the United States.
- In 2006, John Titor's "C204 Time Travel Theory" was the subject of a patent application by Marlin B. Pohlman, with the same diagram outlined in Titor's original story.
- The 2009 visual novel Steins;Gate, which was adapted into an anime in 2011, is centered on John Titor and his theories. A civil war caused by SERN (the fictional version of CERN), due to their discovery of time travel, is covered as well.
- In 2012, the recording "Mittimus Quartet Zero" was recorded by the Free Jazz band Mittimus. The song titles, artwork and concept are based on the story of John Titor.
- Italian grimecore band Hungry Like Rakovitz recorded the song I'll be back in five minutes with John Titor, released on the album The cross is not enough in 2013. The lyrics of the song are quotes attributed to John Titor, taken from his posts on Time Travel Institute forums.
- "The John Titor Story". johntitor.com.
- Scott, Alwyn (26 Sep 2007). The nonlinear universe: chaos, emergence, life. Springer. p. 121. ISBN 978-3-540-34152-9.
- Karl Simanonok (2003-05-19). "John Titor Validity Test Based on Prediction of Civil War by 2004–2005". Johntitor.strategicbrains.com. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- Who was John Titor, the time traveller who came from 2036 to warn us of a nuclear war? Telegraph.co, retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Episode 138 The Legend of Time Traveler John Titor With Joseph Matheny".
- The original John Titor thread
- "John Titor – Time Traveler". Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- John Titor, 2/2/01 10:09
- John Titor, 2/27/01 17:25
- John Titor, 2/1/01 8:36
- John Titor, 2/8/01 9:40
- "The safety of the LHC". CERN press office. Retrieved 2015-07-05.
- "Earth Is Safe: No Black Holes Spun Out of Atom Smasher, Yet". Live Science. Retrieved 2015-07-05.
- A Black Hole Ate My Planet, mentions one widely reported article in The Sunday Times
- "Fermilab Today". FNAL. Retrieved 2015-07-05.
- "RHIC - Black Holes?". Brookhaven National Laboratory. Retrieved 2015-07-06.
- "History Guy: Wars of 2004". Historyguy.com. Retrieved 2015-07-05.
- "World Map of All Wars and Conflicts Happening In 2012". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2015-07-06.
- "Olympic Games - Official Site". Olympic.org. Retrieved 2015-07-05.[dead link]
- "Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics". Stanford.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-06.
- TAN, What to ask next time, #14894[dead link]
- "John Titor faxes to Art Bell", The Anomalies Network, 29 October 2007, retrieved from archive of 23 July 2011[dead link]
- anomalies.net[dead link]
- "John Titor: Hoax". 2004-06-26. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- "Time traveller most likely to be spotted in Rochester, IBM 5100 Engineer Bob Dubke on hidden features". Rochester Magazine. Retrieved 2007-03-15.[dead link]
- "News about the 5100 Computer". 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2007.
- John Titor, 12/30/00 13:37
- "The IBM Family of APL Systems, IBM Systems Journal" (PDF). 1991. Retrieved March 15, 2007.
- "John Titor's Story". Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- "Rai.it – Voyager – Ai confini della conoscenza". Voyager. Retrieved 2010-09-01.[dead link]
- John Titor Razimus Report. Hoax Hunter, retrieved April 22, 2016.
- Time Traveler Zero Zero
- "Method of gravity distortion and time displacement" (PDF). Freepatentsonline.com. Retrieved 2012-01-12.
- "Free Music Archive: Mittimus - Mittimus Quartet Zero". Retrieved 16 April 2016.
- "Hungry Like Rakovitz". Hungry Like Rakovitz. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
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