PRINCETON, NJ—The universe, long known as a bleak and unforgiving place where essentially nothing matters, is in fact even crueler and more heartless than previously thought, according to a startling report published Tuesday by scientists at the Institute for Advanced Study.

“That the world we inhabit is brutal, cold, and meaningless has of course been established scientific fact for quite some time,” said Dr. Susan Doname, head of the research team that conducted the comprehensive five-year study. “But shockingly, our most recent findings indicate that the brutality, coldness, and meaninglessness are far, far more extreme than we ever realized.”

“In fact, the utter futility of it all is a staggering 1.43 million times worse than predicted by our earlier estimates,” she added.

The report explains that when it comes to measuring the complete purposelessness of existence, such impossible-to-reconcile-with-a-caring-God phenomena as earthquakes, disease, famine, and basic human cruelty are “small potatoes, really.” It goes on to state that research in the field has long underestimated the grim discoveries of the past century: threats such as global thermonuclear war, manmade super flus, total environmental collapse, an entirely random meteor strike wiping out all life in a single blow, and so on.

According to the latest statistics, the universe has up to 71 percent less redemption and 87 percent less forgiveness than was once thought, along with an IBK (Indicators of Basic Kindness) rating that has dropped by 52 percent. At the same time, the universe’s general indifference to suffering of all kinds is about a third higher than originally calculated.

Complicating matters is new data that indicates love, often cited as the key mitigating factor against the inevitability of existential gloom, lacks the transcendent power it was once believed to have.

“We used to think love had a very major role to play in shaping the universe,” Doname said. “It turns out we were way off on that one. We now more fully understand that everyone and everything a human being loves will one day cease to be, having existed as little more than the smallest of blips in the vast expanse of the cosmos.”

“Though to be fair, even that description overstates the case,” she continued. “Whereas we used to believe life on earth constituted but the tiniest imaginable speck in the history of the universe, this latest research shows that it’s not even a speck. It’s not anything at all, really. Statistically speaking, it’s nothing.”

The study also reportedly provides the first definitive evidence that there is absolutely no universal creative force that binds existence together, that we are all horribly alone in this place, and that the reason no one has ever been able to find any true meaning in life is because there is none there to be found.

The scientists acknowledged their research “unfortunately leaves the human soul vastly fewer resources with which to sustain itself,” and apologized for earlier miscalculations that may have left people with the smallest bit of hope, however false. But they stood by their findings, stating that the entire natural order of things “is just a whole lot crueler than we ever thought possible.”

While the groundbreaking discovery has reportedly served as a source of great despair for many members of the human race, others reached for comment seemed to take the news more or less in stride.

“I just spent the past 18 hours sewing labels onto brand-name sports apparel,” said Lau Mei-Yee, a 33-year-old garment worker in China’s Guangdong province. “Please stop asking me questions so I can collect my $3.60 in wages, go back to the dormitory I share with eight other people, and get some sleep before my next shift.”