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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: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.1 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: #91,916 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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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
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
The book does a great job of explaining that the theory of inflation is actually a group of theories, many of which are variations of Guth's original theory.
Donald Murphy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 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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39 of 43 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 D. Cloyce Smith on June 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
During the past decade, a number of books by the likes of Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, Martin Rees, or Robert Penrose have, with varying success, brought a new generation of lay readers up to speed on new research and conjectures in cosmology, especially on the Big Bang Theory and its ancillary explorations. Even though it was written ten years ago, Alan Guth's "The Inflationary Universe" is still one of the best of the bunch, in terms both of its writing and its information.

Guth, of course, focuses on the theory he was instrumental in formulating: that, in less than a second, a "repulsive gravitational field created by a false vacuum" caused the universe to expand from relatively "nothing" and formed all the matter in the observable cosmos. In other words, the theory offers explanations for several dilemmas that had been perplexing scientists, including how the Bang occurred in the first place, and how it became so unaccountably Big.

If Guth had simply written an up-to-date report summarizing what scientists believed about the Big Bang in 1997, then his book would have fallen by the wayside long ago. Instead, he portrays the wonky disputes and contrasting theories, along with biographical anecdotes showing his own role in the development of "inflationary universe" theory. For Guth and his peers, science isn't filled with "Eureka!" moments; rather, their work is impeded by doubts, by false leads, by mistakes and omissions, and even by job insecurity.

Above all, there is a palpable sense of camaraderie, excitement, and (yes) fun.
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