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

Alan H Guth
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 July 1998
This classic Big Bang text neatly describes what happened after the bang. Yet, until recently, particle physicists and cosmologists were stuck on many questions that the Big Bang Theory still couldn't answer, primarily: If matter can neither be created nor destroyed, how could so much matter arise from nothing at all? Alan Guth's Inflationary Universe Theory answers these vexing questions. When NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer satellite measured the non-uniformities of the cosmic background radiation for the first time in 1992, the patterns agreed exquisitely with the theory's predictions.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (2 July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009995950X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099959502
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 301,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Just about everyone in the scientific community accepts the theory that our universe began in a "big bang"--but that theory leaves numerous unanswered questions about why the cosmos formed in just the manner we observe today. In The Inflationary Universe, physicist Alan Guth recounts his and others' struggle to expound a theory that could plug the gaps. The outcome is a theory of "inflation" that postulates that the universe underwent an incomprehensibly large expansion in the first fraction of a microsecond of its existence. With the perspective that only a first-person account could provide, The Inflationary Universe sheds light on a leading theory in humankind's continuing quest to understand the universe we live in.


"Mind-blowing stuff" (Sunday Times)

"[Alan Guth's] remarkably lucid account is set to become a seminal text in cosmology...helping us up the learning curve without ever making recourse to unfriendly mathematical equations" (Literary Review)

"[Guth] conveys how science can be an intensely social and interactive activity, and the erratic and fitful way in which new ideas clarify" (The Times)

"One of the most fascinating and fundamental fields of human enquiry...handsomely rewards study" (Financial Times)

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Customer Reviews

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During the 1970s Alan Guth helped start a cosmological revolution. Oddly, it has gone largely unnoticed outside professional science, despite the fact that it has scientific, philosophical, and theological implications every bit as mind-boggling as Einstein's revolution of seventy years ago. The idea looks boring, at first. There are certain technical problems with the 'standard' Big Bang theory. So Guth and others develop the idea that the universe underwent 'inflation'-expanding many times faster than the standard theory allows in the first fraction of a fraction of a second of time. This hypothesis, with its fishy, rather ad hoc air, solves the technical problems. But in fact it solves so many problems, and with such spooky neatness, that physicists start to suspect it might be true. As physicists will, they invent an expensive satellite-based experimental test. And the experimental result maps the theory's predictions exactly. By this time, the theory's originators have started to see that this newly confirmed theory has some very, very bizarre consequences. One is that the observable universe (the bubble, radius about 15 billion light years, that we can observe, and which most people confuse with the universe itself) must in fact bear about the same relation to the whole universe as a grain of dust does to the Earth. Another is that this unobserved greater "universe" is, in turn, almost certainly just a "bubble universe" within a creation that is incomprehensibly many orders of magnitude larger and older. Popular science, like liquor, comes in many strengths, and this one is not for the faint of kidney. Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Alan Guth is one of the outstanding physicists of our times, and it feels great to read this book written about his own discovery. The author reveals one of the deepest secrets about our universe called cosmic inflation. The book documents the drama in his life as a physicist, and his struggle to make a decision about working in the area of monopoles, when he has doubts about his own strength in the field. Being cautious about his calculations and conclusions, feeling low when discouraged, and sometimes ridiculed by his superiors, yet at the same time feeling triumphant when his peers find his work outstanding. The author describes his experience beautifully.

A brief summary of this book is as follows: A natural consequence of the properties of Grand Unified Theories (GUT) is that the universe at a very young age may have gone through a very rapid expansion in a very short time and then returned to a more leisurely rate of growth dictated by the standard big bang theory. Hubble's constant illustrate that the universe is undergoing homogeneous expansion. The first turning event for the author is when physicist Bob Dicke proposed that the value of omega (the ratio of actual mass density to critical mass density) at one second after the big bang was between 0.999999999999999 and 1.000000000000001. If the value was less than this then the universe would have expanded forever and galaxies would never had time to form; on the other hand if the value was slightly more than this, then the universe would have collapsed sooner before it had any chance to grow to this big. This ratio was expected to be very close to one, this is called flatness problem: The big bang theory has no explanation for this ratio.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The second greatest question of Mankind is why the Universe should exist.Why existence is more preferable than non existence. I avoided expressing this question as "how the Universe was born" because some exotic, though scientific, theories like Eternal Inflation Theory or the Theory of Harte-Hawking conclude that the Universe is eternal and there is no sense asking about beginning and creation. The Big Bang Theory is the most successful model of the Universe evolution starting 1 minute from genesis up to this moment. The reason why the Universe started expanding or how it was possible for its immense amount of matter to emerge from nothing can't be answered from Big Bang Theory and this is where Inflation Theory comes to act and fill these huge gaps. This theory not only explains many tantalizing cosmological problems like the flatness problem, the horizon problem, the structure problem and the problem of magnetic monopoles but it also has an explanation for the emergence and creation of all mater comprising the Universe. Can you imagine that the vast Universe, whose observable part contains 100 billion galaxies each of which comprise 100 billion stars, started its existence from an area 10 trillion times less than the proton diameter and mass less than few milligrams! If you want to take this unimaginable trip to reality then you should read this book.

Because every theory is inevitably linked with its historical background which is also necessary for the reader in order to understand the theory, this book starts with a very nice exposition of the Cosmology and its problems at the time A.Guth found his theory. He briefly explains that the Big Bang Theory is a theory of evolution of the Universe and not a theory of creation.
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