PRINCETON, NJ—According to a new report published this week, researchers at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study have definitively concluded that it—all of it—is some kind of sick joke.

The comprehensive study, which carefully analyzed fields as varied as physics, theology, history, economics, sociology, and philosophy, is said to have found overwhelming evidence that it is all just one big sham specifically designed to humiliate us and cause us as much misery as possible.

"The results are clear and irrefutable: Everything from the unfathomable expanses of the universe to our own continuously deteriorating bodies is apparently nothing more than an elaborate and perverse joke that's being perpetrated on us repeatedly and entirely against our will," said Faisal Ahmed, a quantum physicist and lead author of the paper. "Furthermore, research suggests there's not a single goddamned thing we can do about it."

"It is important to note as well that the more one contemplates what a spiteful and deceptive set-up it all is, the crueler and sicker the joke becomes," Ahmed continued. "That's how truly sadistic it all is."

Researchers confirmed every attempt so far to assign meaning to any of it has not worked, with scholars' embarrassing failures having served only to provide further evidence that it is all just a twisted ruse crafted by an uncaring cosmos that looks down upon the hapless human race with a mixture of amusement and utter indifference.

According to Ahmed, the grand malicious joke encompasses every conceivable facet of the universe, including matter, time, gravity, the Krebs cycle, subatomic particles, evolution, photosynthesis, human society, marriage, friendship, life itself, continental drift, infectious disease, reproduction, the totality of history, free will, and both general and special relativity.

Ahmed reported that the study itself was also part of the joke, stating that the laugh was on the study's readers, for not realizing before that they were mere pawns in some sort of endless, dizzying maze without end or meaning—and also on the researchers themselves, for spending much of their careers deducing this simple fact of existence.

"The question we're ultimately left with is what kind of a savage and twisted god would find this funny?" theological scholar Meredith Hemphill said. "Unfortunately, the only thing we can say for sure is that we're not dealing with a benevolent deity or even a detached and unfeeling maker, but apparently some unknowable force that takes a perverted, I would argue psychopathic, pleasure in watching its creations struggle and fail."

"That is, if there is even anything out there watching us at all, and we're not simply acting out our painful and meaningless lives in front of no one but ourselves," Hemphill added. "The joke would quite certainly be on us in that case."

According to the report, the fact that humans occasionally experience positive emotions such as happiness, accomplishment, and hope appeared to be the most diabolical aspect of the joke. In repeated testing, scientists found that such feelings were invariably dashed regardless of circumstances, often in an extremely and needlessly cruel manner, and that this is an immutable fact they now regard as a fundamental constant of the universe.

Based on the results of their study, researchers have urged individuals not to waste their time trying to find answers to why it's all such a fucked-up charade, questioning whether it has some higher purpose, or attempting to devise some way to avoid it—such efforts being futile gestures that would only "play right into" the universe's trap.

"There appears to be no escaping the feelings of humiliation, emptiness, and despair this barbaric joke exacts on everyone," said Nobel laureate and professor emeritus of psychology Daniel Kahneman. "However, trial studies show humankind is far better off when we push it all into the back of our heads, try not to think about it, and just trudge mindlessly toward death."

"And let me remind everyone that the joke does indeed have an ending, one which generally occurs much, much sooner than we expect," Kahneman added.