“There are grounds for cautious optimism that we may now be near the end of the search for the ultimate laws of nature.”

“We are bathing in mystery and confusion on many subjects,” Carl Sagan reflected in an interview in August of 1980, “and I think that will always be our destiny. The universe will always be much richer than our ability to understand it.” Exactly eight years later, a mind far more scientifically formidable, if not as poetic, ignited in the popular imagination the idea that Sagan’s worldview might be wrong — that the universe might, after all, be fully knowable and fully describable in a single elegant theory. When Stephen Hawking (January 8, 1942–March 14, 2018) sent his bo…

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