TIME

String theorist Brian Greene wants to help you understand the cold, cruel universe

IF YOU’RE FEELING ALL DREAMY ABOUT THE universe, here’s a pro tip: don’t tell Brian Greene. That guy can chill your cosmic buzz fast. I recently swung by the office of the Columbia University theoretical physicist full of happy, giddy questions and came away pretty much empty. Is there such a thing as a natural moral order? I wondered. Not in this universe, there isn’t. What about a purpose to the universe, then—the reason the whole 13.8 billion-year-old shebang with its hundreds of billions of galaxies and trillions of planets happened in the first place? Nope, Greene says, no such purpose, adding, “And that’s O.K.” Maybe for him it is.

Surely, though, Greene will grant the existence of free will—that first item on the wish list of every freshman-year

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