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The Inflationary Universe Paperback – March 18, 1998

4.7 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (March 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201328402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201328400
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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