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Inflation May Need Air

31 Mar 2011, 01:54 UTC
Inflation May Need Air
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

In the late 1970's, when rising prices were on everyone's mind, Alan Guth and others proposed that the universe had also suffered from inflation. According to inflation, when the universe was only 10^{-33} seconds old it expanded at warp speed, many times faster than light. It appeared to solve some puzzles in cosmology. Inflation would violate both the First Law of Thermodynamics (conservation of energy) and Relativity's stipulation that nothing travels faster than light. To power inflation, physicists had to infer repulsive "scalar fields" or "inflatons." None of these imaginary forces has ever been observed in nature. Inflation can never be demonstrated by experiment--humans can not time-travel to the first 10^{-33} seconds to observe inflation, and no human experiment can approach the titanic energies near the Big Bang. Nevertheless, inflation theories have been a cottage industry for 3 decades.In the cover story of this month's SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, cosmologist Paul Steinhardt asks: The Inflation Debate: Is the theory at the heart of modern cosmology fundamentally flawed? "In brief: Cosmic inflation is so widely accepted that it is often taken as established fact. The idea is that the geometry and uniformity of the cosmos were established during an intense early growth spurt."But ...

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