The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins / Edition 1by Alan Guth
Pub. Date: 02/28/1998
Publisher: Basic Books
This is the compelling, first-hand account of Alan Guth’s paradigm-breaking discovery of the origins of the universeand of his dramatic rise from young researcher to physics superstar. Guth’s startling theorywidely regarded as one of the most important contributions to science during the twentieth centurystates that the big bang was
This is the compelling, first-hand account of Alan Guth’s paradigm-breaking discovery of the origins of the universeand of his dramatic rise from young researcher to physics superstar. Guth’s startling theorywidely regarded as one of the most important contributions to science during the twentieth centurystates 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.
- Basic Books
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- Edition description:
- New Edition
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.14(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.13(d)
Table of Contents
|APPENDIX A Gravitational Energy||289||(6)|
|APPENDIX B Newton and the Infinite Static Universe||295||(4)|
|APPENDIX C Blackbody Radiation||299||(6)|
|APPENDIX D Units and Measures||305||(6)|
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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
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.
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.
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).
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.