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

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,834 ratings  ·  34 reviews
This is the compelling, first-hand account of Alan Guth’s paradigm-breaking discovery of the origins of the universe—and of his dramatic rise from young researcher to physics superstar. Guth’s startling theory—widely regarded as one of the most important contributions to science during the twentieth century—states that the big bang was set into motion by a period of hyper- ...more
Paperback, 358 pages
Published March 18th 1998 by Basic Books (first published 1997)
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[Original review: July 2012]

Yesterday evening, I was sitting with the local knitting group and reading the last few pages of Guth's book. "Should I actually believe this?" I bemusedly asked the two CERN physicists sitting on either side of me. "HELL NO!" said T, after glancing at the cover. "Inflation?? I HATE IT!!! It's why I gave up cosmology and went into nuclear physics! That's real science!" But A had a more positive opinion. "Well," she shrugged, "it's part of the standard Big Bang model.
Erin O'Quinn
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Almost everyone has heard Barenaked Ladies' lyrics on the popular TV show “The Big Bang Theory": “The whole universe was in a hot dense state, / Then nearly 14 billion years ago expansion started. / Wait!..."

Well, without Alan Guth’s seminal discovery of expansion, Bare Naked Ladies would have had to write a different set of lyrics....and we would still be trying to figure out how it all began.

What is “expansion”? In a nutshell, it is the time--billionths of a second in duration--when the first
G.R. Reader
Mar 18, 2014 rated it liked it
I've been trying to call Alan all day to congratulate him, but his phone seems to be permanently busy. Oh well, this will have to do. Alan, I'm big enough to admit you were right and I was wrong, and just let me know when you want that dinner at the Fat Duck. Kisses, G. ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Alan Guth is not a science popularizer like Carl Sagan or Neil DeGrasse Tyson, but the actual scientist who originated Inflation cosmology. This book is presented chronologically, following his and his colleagues' work through problems and dead ends, and occasionally even events from his personal life. Even though it is math-less, it conveys the conceptual trade-offs and reasoning, beyond a mere description of the resulting theory to be taken on pure faith. As an engineer with detailed knowledge ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it liked it
It this is the dumbed-down version of particle physics, I don't even want to try ...more
Jaime Olmos
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: math-and-science
This is more anecdotal than a rigorous scientific review ...
Fun and instructional read ...
I occasionally would see saw Dr. Guth at MIT in Grad school (at the time I was till an undergrad).
I however knew relatively well his colleague Dr. Henry Tye who went on to become a String Theorist at Cornell (I wound up swithcing to Nuclear Engineering altogether :-))
I read this book a while ago .. I am a lot more interested in QFT ( checkout Huang's book!).
Dr. Guth relates in his book how he first had co
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
The triumphs of discovering the Comic Inflationary Theory

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 calculat
Jun 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Prof. Alan Guth's book about his scientific investigation and subsequent discovery (while a postdoc) of the exponential inflationtary expansion of the universe is consistently brilliant, and one of the best books I've read in a long while. I'm very sure he's going to win a Nobel Prize in the near future for his discovery.

Prof. Guth's intutive physical explanations of complex mathematical ideas (such as the idea of a false vaccum, 'negative' pressure, the higgs field, the analogy between thermody
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is definitely written for the non-scientist. Clear and concise without all that confusing scientific jargon. I'm nerdy, I like space and I loved this book! ...more
Muhammad Usman
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting book that gives the explanation of the origins of the universe from scratch. This book is a joint description of the story of the universe and Alan Guth's life story and his journey through the realms of physics and cosmology. This combined description makes it easy to retain temporal arrangement of different events during the development of the theory of inflation.
Alan Guth has given a background of the big bang cosmology and an introduction of the standard model, Higg's field an
Ken Rideout
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cosmic Inflation has always been a concept I struggle with. I finally bit the bullet and read this autobiographical account from Guth himself of how it came to be. Although the book is a bit dated (it is from a pre Dark Energy era), it is a pretty comprehensive treatment of the evolution of the theory from crackpot idea to widely accepted as the best model we have of the early universe. Along the way, Guth gives some of the most cogent explainers of the Ultraviolet Catastrophe, Quantum Field The ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: astronomy, _own, physics
The universe went through a seemingly illegal brief expansion near the 10^-35 second where it went from size=almost nothing, to size=beach ball. But it did this faster than the speed of light as we know it. But this quick spreading out of matter at the very beginning now allows us to look at stars to our left that are 10+ billion light years away, and stars to our right at 10+ billion light years away, and they look the same! Inflation explain the homogeneity of our universe, and other things to ...more
John Sibley
Feb 12, 2012 rated it did not like it


The same mystery that Greek philosophers such as Eudoxus,Aristotle,and Aristarchus,and Ptolemy grabbled with is the same mystery in the sixteenth century,that Copernicus,Kepler,Galileo and Isaac Newton wrestled with.
In 1923 Edwin Hubble shattered the mystery that our galaxy is not alone in the cosmic void. Einstein's theory of a static universe was wrong. When he looked into the sky,he believed the stars were fixed and that the universe was motionless.I
Marcel Côté
Aug 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
A friend asked me how credible the "multiverse" theories are that imagine our universe as just one of a potentially infinite number of eternally generating bubble-universes, and I realized that I lacked even the basic scientific background concerning the Big Bang or the laws of matter and energy to provide an informed answer (or an intelligent guess). So I started looking around for a book that would give me the foundation I need, and I settled on this one, because even though it was written ove ...more
Sep 22, 2020 rated it liked it
When I read this book I was wondering whether this is the Alan Guth's autobiography or a work about the theory of inflationary universe. There are many personal issues, so difficult to say. The reasoning could be simpler without it. The very concept of inflationary universe is also presented vaguely and barely understood. ...more
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
There are moments where the process of scientific discovery looks a lot like a fumble recovery play in football. The solution is right there in front of you, bouncing in crazy directions, if you could only get your hands on it. In that light, the most revealing anecdote in Alan Guth's intellectual history of cosmic inflation is Steven Weinberg's reaction after learning of Guth's discovery: he allegedly cursed out loud and said he wished he had though of it himself.

Inflation is one of those ideas
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cosmology
I found the book interesting and a provocative read. No one may ever know what "came before" the Universe. Unless this simulation crashes and the Prime Programmer reveals the mysterious workings and divine code. However, there appears to be little doubt at this point the universe is expanding. The question is now about why, not if. Most people probably don't give much thought to the idea that a) the universe can also refer to the "universe of universes," meaning our universe is but one among a c ...more
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
According to the preface, this book was written for the nonscientist. It is designed to explain not only the traditional Big Bang models but also a handful of the many that use author Alan Guth's (b. 1947) idea of inflation, that is, a brief time of exponential expansion of the early universe. Remarkably free of mathematics, it relies instead on graphs, pictures (I like pictures!) and analogies to get the points across. The writing is clear, even lighthearted at times, despite the esoteric topic ...more
John Grange
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Alan Guth brilliantly helped to create one of the greatest ideas humanity has ever conjured. For that, he has to be seen as one of the great scientific mind's of our time. Human intellectual endeavors and discovery stem from ideas, with the greatest ideas captivating the greatest minds. This all ultimately results in progress. Mr. Guth defined an idea that attempts to answer the greatest question of all time: how did all of this become all of this? I found Guth's writing to be superb. The way th ...more
Daniel Woodworth
Guth does a superb job of laying out the process by which he (and others) developed inflation. That, rather than a description of the model itself, is the strength of the book. The description of the physics involved is, for what it is, at least as good, but it is a very broad overview, and other books can provide detail that it does not. The description of the model isn't bad - it's quite good, actually - but it is nonetheless overshadowed by the excellent narrative quality of the first eleven ...more
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Guth is a very sober and dispassionate writer. His semi-biographical story of how he stumbled onto an idea that changed modern science is an exciting mystery. I'm not quite I believe in endless inflation. I believe our existence is what it is, because that's what it had to be to exist and for us to be here. sometimes by looking at our world we can infer perfectly logically deduced happenings that are in fact illusory. But it appears that Mr. Guth's math is consistent with his claims, so, the ...more
Josh Brown
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really liked this books blend of science and autobiography. It gave me the chance to digest the more technical portions and also reminded me that human beings reach scientific conclusions, and that's am important part of things. ...more
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Some expert topics in modern physics are well-explained for a general audience with a personal account of major developments and figures in the physics community. The diagrams are well-prepared and helpful.
Dec 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book gets corny at times, when Guth throws in ill-digested personal details, probably because some well-intentioned editor told him the book would sell better if it wasn't just science. ...more
Linda Fitzgerald
Oct 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Still sipping at this mind-bending exploration of how the universe began.
Jan 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
A concise (and human) background for those who desire understanding of basic cosmology.
May 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
brilliant...hip...a classic
Ege Özmeral
Apr 14, 2015 marked it as to-read
Shelves: physics
Warning: can be too advanced for now
Moe Balaly
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
great book, covers most of topics related to cosmology with analytic answers which is understandable to public audience
Violeta Vornicu
Nov 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: cosmology
I was expecting more information about the theory of inflation itself than about the history of the theory, however it's a good book that is worth reading. ...more
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Alan Harvey Guth (born February 27, 1947) is an American theoretical physicist and cosmologist. Guth has researched elementary particle theory (and how particle theory is applicable to the early universe). Currently serving as Victor Weisskopf Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he is the originator of the inflationary universe theory.

He graduated from MIT in 1968 in

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