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


This is the compelling, first-hand account of Alan Guth?s paradigm-breaking discovery of the origins of the universe?and of his dramatic rise from young researcher to physics superstar. Guth?s startling theory?widely regarded as one of the most important contributions to science during the twentieth century?states that the big bang was set into motion by a period of hyper-rapid ?inflation,? lasting only a billion-trillion-billionth of a second. The Inflationary Universe is the passionate story of one leading ...

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This is the compelling, first-hand account of Alan Guth’s paradigm-breaking discovery of the origins of the universe—and of his dramatic rise from young researcher to physics superstar. Guth’s startling theory—widely regarded as one of the most important contributions to science during the twentieth century—states that the big bang was set into motion by a period of hyper-rapid “inflation,” lasting only a billion-trillion-billionth of a second. The Inflationary Universe is the passionate story of one leading scientist’s effort to look behind the cosmic veil and explain how the universe began.

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: 9780201328400
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 444,792
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.13 (d)

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 “The Top 25 American Innovators,” and Science Digest has ranked him among the “100 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2005

    Great book--reads like a detective novel

      This  is one of the best popular cosmology books ever written.  He tells  the  extremely complex story of inflation and related areas of  particle physics in  such an absorbing style that it reads like  a detective novel--in fact, it is a detective novel--how he and others found out how the universe started!    The interweaving  of his personal story  and that of many colleagues along with their photos and  many wonderfully  clear diagrams allows just the right amount of relaxation from  the  intensity of the physics. In places the style reminds one of  Watson´s famous  book ``The Double Helix``.  He tells how his  work on magnetic monopoles and spontaneous  symmetry breaking led to the  discovery of the inflationary theory of the very  early universe(ca 10  to minus 35 seconds!).   Along the way  you will learn many gems that should stay with you a long  time  such as: the observed universe(eg, everything the Hubble telescope  etc can  see out to ca. 15 billion light years when the universe  began) is likely just a  vanishingly tiny part of the entire inhomogeneous  universe which is about 10 to  the 23rd times larger; the big  bang probably took place simultaneously and  homogeneously in our  observed universe; there probably have been and will  continue  to be an infinite number of big bangs in an infinite number of  universes  for an infinite time; when a bang happens, everything(space, time,  all  the elements) from the previous universe are destroyed; the  stretching of space  can happen at speeds much greater than the  speed of light; our entire observed  universe lies in a single  bubble out of an endless number so there may be  trillions of trillions  just in our own entire(pocket) universe(and there may be  an endless  number of such); none of these infinite number of universes  interact--ie,  we can never find out anything about the others; each universe  started  with its own big bang and will eventually collapse to create a new  big  bang; all this implies that the whole universe is fractal  in nature and thus  infinitely regresses to ever more universes(which can lead one to thinkgof it as a giant hologram); disagreements between the  endless(hundreds at least) variations  of inflation are sometimes due to lack of  awareness that different  definitions of time are being used; some theories  suggest that  there was a first big bang but we can never find out what happened  before it; nevertheless it appears increasingly plausible that  there was no  beginning but rather an eternal cycle of the destruction  and creation, each  being the beginning of spacetime for that universe;  to start a universe you need  about 25g of matter in a 10 to minus  26cm diameter sphere with a false vacuum  and a singularity(white  hole).   Regardless of all this we still  want to know how and why it all started  even if this question  seems to make no sense and he notes that Tryon speculated  long  ago that quantum fluctuations could give rise to our universe instantly any  time from the very beginning(eg, 10 to minus 35 seconds) to this  instant,  complete with our particle accelerators and Guth with  his ``memories`` of  inventing inflation! The probability is incredibly small, but as there may be an infinite  amount of time and space even the improbable becomes certain!  The physicist Vilenkin  extended Tryon´s  idea in a mathematically well defined way, giving a quantum  description  of general relativity that shows that the universe (spacetime) can  arise from nothing. It seems this is based on the fact that one  of the possible  geometries of the universe is an empty one with  no points in which quantum  tunnels to a nonempty state which then  inflates. Inflation requires only a false vacuum and some mechanism to produce baryons and is independent of and GUTs.  Even Einstein´s infamous cosmic constant has reappe

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2003

    This was an outstanding book!

    I had first read this book several years ago (the summer before I entered ninth grade), and as the first physics book I had ever read, it truly sparked my interest in the field. I attribute this book to my first introduction to quarks, magnetic monopoles, GUT theories, electroweak theory, and the realm of quantum physics in general. The author's clear descrpitions of advanced topics and lucid use of language makes his contributions to the inflationary theory of the universe accessible to a vast selection of readers, introducing new topics on the vanguard of modern scientific thought. Although I have read many other physics books in the past couple years, I continually reminisce on the profound impact this book has had on my life as one of nearly insurpassible relevance and scope.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2001

    Cosmic Masterpiece!

    <BR>If you like cosmology, grab this title! Inflation may be the biggest thing to hit cosmology since invention of the Big Bang theory. Incidentally, the two theories do not conflict, but instead complement each other nicely as you will discover: Inflationary period is relevant at Plank time of 10^-35s after 'the beginning', Big Bang cosmology does the rest.<BR><BR> Initial two thirds of the book are an introduction to the Inflationary theory, outlining all of the relevant physics. The standard model of particle physics, Grand Unification theories, and Higgs Fields are some of the topics covered. The author doesn't assume you have any prior knowledge on these topics, but the reading is quite advanced nevertheless, which is a good thing for those of us already well read in the subject (if you aren't, feel free to get up-to-speed with the titles I listed below).<BR><BR> The final third of the book is of course on the Inflation itself, and who better to hear it from than from one of its inventors! Guth gives a truly beautiful account of the theory's creation, evolution, and the cosmology problems it solved. I doubt a better explanation can be found anywhere.

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