PALO ALTO, CA—A report released Tuesday by physicists at Stanford University has revealed that the entire known universe—including the whole of human civilization and the totality of all existing matter and energy—is actually the fictional setting of a police-procedural television series called Hard Case.

Scientists studying the properties of light from exploding supernovae confirmed their research has conclusively demonstrated that existence as we know it was created solely to provide the framework for a prime-time drama that airs in a parallel universe and is centered around a brash New York City police detective named Rick Case, his partner Michelle Crowley, and the other members of Hard Case's fictitious Homicide Division.

"By observing the behavior of vibrating subatomic strings in relation to large-scale cosmological events, we have been able to determine that our universe is part of an expansive fabricated macrocosm developed by Hard Case creator and executive producer Dominic Egan, who exists outside of our fictional reality," said the study's lead author, Mark Shen, who later speculated that Egan would likely have won several Emmy Awards had he himself not invented television's highest accolade as a humorous meta-facet of the Hard Case world. "In fact, we have discovered that every human being on earth is essentially an extra, a figment of Mr. Egan's imagination brought into existence solely to lend texture and credibility to the hard-bitten world in which detectives Case and Crowley regularly match wits against New York's most formidable criminals."

'Hard Case' series creator Dominic Egan, who scientists say is also the creator of all known matter and energy in our universe. 

"Further analysis of lower dimensional space suggests Hard Case airs at 9 p.m. on what we call Wednesdays," Shen added.

Measurements of cosmic radiation levels have shown that Hard Case is in its fourth season, an indication that, in relative terms, our universe was first formed in September 2008 and has since existed only six months per year in weekly 60-minute increments, with pauses for commercial breaks.

According to Shen, every event prior to the show's pilot, including the Renaissance, World War II, the 3.7-billion-year process of evolution, the 9/11 attacks, the development of the polio vaccine, and the presidential administrations of Washington through Clinton are all part of Hard Case's elaborate backstory and never actually occurred in reality.

"While we once believed the universe was governed by immutable laws of thermodynamics and gravitational relativity, we now know everything we experience comes directly from the minds of Hard Case's 12 staff writers," said theoretical physicist Rebecca Carlson, who was part of a committee that independently verified the results of the report. "At present, we're uncertain whether the very discovery we're currently discussing is a product of scientists having become sentient and able to operate independently within the fictional world we all inhabit or—and this is much more likely—whether every word coming out of my mouth right now has also been scripted as a small part of an intricate, brilliantly constructed story-arc."

"It's a very, very well written show," Carlson added.

Despite the jarring findings of the report, experts have urged the population of earth to continue living their lives as usual, given that free will almost certainly does not exist and that the entire course of humanity is predetermined by 44-page scripts.

"Humanity's great unanswered questions, such as those regarding the existence of an afterlife or whether we are in fact alone in this universe, are things that seemingly have yet to be written into Hard Case's continuity," Professor Charles Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study said. "However, the main thing we must come to grips with now is that after Hard Case airs its final episode, our universe will cease to exist altogether."

"Unless, of course, network executives green-light a spin-off featuring the uptight yet lovable Sgt. Clay Hanson," Witten added. "I'd imagine that would buy humanity at least two or three more years."