The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins

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The classic big bang theory is great at describing what happened after the bang. Yet until recently, particle physicists and cosmologists were stuck on many questions that the big bang theory couldn't answer, including: What made the big bang BANG in the first place? If matter can be neither created nor destroyed, how could so much matter arise from nothing at all? Why can we only see a minute part of the mega-universe? In 1979, a young particle physicist named Alan Guth answered these questions and made front-page news with one of the greatest discoveries in modern cosmology: cosmic inflation. This is the compelling, first-hand account of Guth's paradigm-breaking discovery of the origins of the universe; and it is a fascinating chronicle of his dramatic struggle to justify it. Guth's startling theory states that in the billion-trillion-trillionth of a second before the big bang, there was a period of hyper-rapid "inflation" that got the big bang started. Inflation modifies our picture of only the first small fraction of a second in the history of the universe, and then it joins onto the standard big bang theory, preserving all of the successes of the older theory. But because inflation explains the bang itself, it is a much richer theory than the older versions of the big bang.

From the man who revolutionized cosmology, here is the story of what happened before the Big Bang. From the early days of intellectual curiosity to the victory of experimental confirmation, physicist Alan Guth tells the first-hand story of his paradigm-breaking discovery of how the universe began. Diagrams and photos throughout. 352 pp. National author tour & national ads.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780099959502
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006

Meet the Author

Alan Guth is V. F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to being elected to the National Academy of Sciences and receiving many other academic awards, Newsweek has called him one of β€œThe Top 25 American Innovators,” and Science Digest has ranked him among the β€œ100 Brightest Scientists Under 40.”
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Table of Contents

1 The Ultimate Free Lunch 1
2 The Cosmic Vista from Ithaca, New York 17
3 The Birth of Modern Cosmology 33
4 Echoes of a Scorching Past 57
5 Condensation of the Primordial Soup 85
6 Matters of Matter and Antimatter 105
7 The Particle Physics Revolution of the 1970s 115
8 Grand Unified Theories 131
9 Combatting the Magnetic Monopole Menace 147
10 The Inflationary Universe 167
11 The Aftermath of Discovery 189
12 The New Inflationary Universe 201
13 Wrinkles on a Smooth Background 213
14 Observational Clues from Deep Below and Far Beyond 237
15 The Eternally Existing, Self-Reproducing Inflationary Universe 245
16 Wormholes and the Creation of Universes in the Laboratory 253
17 A Universe Ex Nihilo 271
Epilogue 277
App. A Gravitational Energy 289
App. B Newton and the Infinite Static Universe 295
App. C Blackbody Radiation 299
App. D Units and Measures 305
Notes 311
Glossary 325
Credits 345
Index 347
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