Cosmic Conundrum

The universe seems uncannily well suited to the existence of life. Could that really be an accident?

Dealing with cranks is an occupational hazard for most scientists, but it's especially bad for physicists and astronomers. Those who study the cosmos for a living tend to be bombarded with letters, calls and emails from would-be geniuses who insist they have refuted Einstein or devised a new theory of gravity or disproved the Big Bang. The telltale signs of crankdom are so consistent--a grandiose theory, minimal credentials, a messianic zeal--that scientists can usually spot them a mile off.

That's why the case of James Gardner is so surprising. He seems to fit the profile perfectly: he's a Portland, Ore., attorney,...

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