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

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,727 ratings  ·  32 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 2nd 1998 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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4.08  · 
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 ·  1,727 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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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  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jaime Olmos
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It this is the dumbed-down version of particle physics, I don't even want to try
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Ken Rideout
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ehsan Ebrahimian
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
کتاب The Inflationary Universe نوشته خودِ آلن گوث است و به داستان شکلگیری ایده تورم توسط خودش میپردازد که با توجه به نقش محوری گوث در این ماجرا، شامل اطلاعات دست اول و بسیار جذابی از داستانِ پیچیده و پر فراز و فرودِ شکلگیری تا همهپذیر و فراگیر شدنِ یک ایده علمی بین دانشمندان است و این باعث میشود علیرغم دستهبندی کتاب در رده کتابهای علمی برای عموم، حتی برای خواننده دانشگاهی نیز اطلاعات ارزشمندی داشته باشد. گوث در ضمنِ این داستان، دو داستان به نظرِ من مهم را هم تعریف میکند،یکی داستان کیهانشناسی نوی ...more
Tenghis Ulzii
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
p gud
John Sibley
Feb 12, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition


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  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Rarely do I spend so long on a book, but this one was challenging in a pleasant way. What I mean by challenging is not that it was hard to read--indeed, Guth's prose is very readable and his explanations are clear, concise, and comprehensible--but that the content challenged me to use parts of my brain that I haven't used recently, and I really enjoyed this mental workout! I wouldn't recommend it unless you are interested in theories of the formation of the early universe, but if you are interes ...more
Josh Brown
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Moe Balaly
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
great book, covers most of topics related to cosmology with analytic answers which is understandable to public audience
Jan 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A concise (and human) background for those who desire understanding of basic cosmology.
Linda Fitzgerald
Still sipping at this mind-bending exploration of how the universe began.
Leo W.
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engagingly written. A bit dated for a 2015 reading, but hearing it all in the originator's words easily makes up for that.
Violeta Vornicu
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.
Ege Özmeral
Apr 14, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics
Warning: can be too advanced for now
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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