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The Inflationary Universe Paperback – March 18, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (March 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201328402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201328400
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In late 1979, Guth developed concept of the "inflationary universe," proposing that, very soon after the Big Bang, the tightly packed mass that constituted the universe underwent an exceptionally rapid expansion for a limited amount of time before settling down to a more sedate growth pace. This resolved some major problems in the standard cosmological model. Here Guth relates the history of 20th-century cosmology before, during, and after his biggest contribution. Though he writes well and manages to skip most equations, this work will still be a stern test for general readers; some reading knowledge of related works for lay readers is almost a prerequisite for full understanding of the sophisticated scientific concepts expounded herein. Recommended chiefly for academic and the largest public libraries.?Jack W. Weigel, Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is an excellent read for persons with a non-academic interest in Cosmology.
David C. Smissonsr MD
He explains ideas like negative energy fields in a marvelously clear way that allow the non-mathematical reader to get a clear understanding of the actual physics.
Michael J. Edelman
Alan Guth is one of the outstanding physicists of our times, and it feels great to read this book written about his own discovery.
Rama Rao

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Frank Paris on July 1, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Wow! What a great book. This is the clearest and deepest book on cosmology for the layman that I have ever read, and I've read a lot of them. I don't know whether previous books I've read just didn't explain it right or what, but before I reading this book, I was always disgruntled by inflationary theories of the universe, thinking
for some reason that they were ad hoc, devised out of the blue to explain the flatness problem. This is the first book on the subject that I've ever read that showed me that inflationary theories are
actually derived from more basic theories, and that they just HAPPEN to explain several different problems associated with the classical big bang theory. I was also very intrigued by Guth's explanation of how there is probably a fractal pattern of universes similar to our own that emerges out of the decay of the false vacuum. This is also the first time I've understood that the "multi-universe" proposals really ARE based on scientific theories, and weren't simply pulled out of thin air. A wonderful book that make a host of other books on cosmology look amateurish by comparison
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 18, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some very good books on science focus mainly on detailing a particular scientific discovery or discoveries. Some very good science books do their best to communicate with a general audience concerning ideas that can be highly technical. What is rarer is a science book that does both of these within the framework of what it is really like to live and work as a scientist. The amazing book The Double Helix by James Watson which describes the quest for the structure of DNA is one of these. So is this book by Alan Guth on the development of the inflationary universe theory as a "correction" to Big Bang theory.
In this book Guth takes us through the basics of the Big Bang theory and then into the idea of inflation--what it is and how it goes along with Big Bang theory. He takes a wonderful historically-developed approach and he does this without the help of (at least as far as I can recall) a single equation in the body of the text. Instead, he uses basic numerical analysis and the help of a number of graphs and illustrations to develop these complex ideas into a very readable explanation. He is also very frank in warning the reader of difficult concepts and directing the less detail-minded to skipping around.
All of this makes for a good science read; however, what I really enjoyed about this book is how he brings out the things that really drive real science, particularly when he reaches those investigations into which he was personally involved. He points out how theory and experiment drive each other. He isn't afraid to show the fights for priority and reputation that often push scientists. He lets us see how the desperation for a secure job, the cockiness of the young researcher and the ego of established names is often the engine for discovery.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Inflation is one of the greatest ideas in cosmology. If proven to have happened, then Alan Guth will probably receive the Nobel prize. The Inflationary Universe is a nice book to learn a lot of physics. It is on par with "The Elegant Universe," which has become a best seller at Amazon.com. There is a nice chapter on Inflation in "The Bible According to Einstein" in verse. I highly recommend that book for those interested in a narrative account of the history of the universe.
Guth provides a lot of insight into the life of an ambitious post doctorate in particle physics. Only he is able to tell the story of how he arrived at the idea of inflation. I was surprised to find out that one of his co-workers, Henry Tye, played such an important role, but missed out of becoming one of the authors of inflation because he went away on a trip. One weak point of the book is that wordy paragraphs replace what would normally be equations. These paragraphs are hard to read. Guth probably should have replaced such sections with highly intuitive descriptions or skipped them altogether. A reader can skip these technical sections and enjoy the rest of the book, which is excellent.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
I always enjoy reading books about scientific discoveries by authors who were there. Alan H. Guth's book "The Inflationary Universe" not only provides a revealing look at the development of inflationary theories of the universe, it is by far the best explanation on the subject that I've seen for the general scientifically literate public.
Guth starts almost at the beginning of modern science by laying a foundation of understanding in conservation laws and fields. His explanation (supported by further information in an appendix) of the negative energy of gravitational fields is clear and intuitive. So clear are his explanations that one hardly seems surprised when Guth introduces Edward Tryon's early speculation that the universe may have originated from a quantum vacuum fluctuation.
Next, Guth develops the idea of an expanding universe, and the flatness problem. His explanation of why the flatness problem is a problem at all is concise and wonderfully illustrated. Throughout all of this, Guth offers a rare glimpse into the workings of science by showing the chaotic effects of unpredictable chance occurrences that lead to that rare insight with its attendant "ahhhh" at the end of discovery. I particularly enjoyed the photographs he included of many key players in the developments of modern cosmology, with a singular exception. There is no photograph of Guth himself [this is my only complaint about the book].
Leading up to the discussion of inflation proper, Guth offers clear and insightful discussions of the discovery of the microwave background radiation.
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