BSA Distinguished Lecture

"Inflationary Cosmology: Is Our Universe Part of a Multiverse?"

Presented by Alan Guth, MIT

Thursday, November 6, 2008, 7:00 pm — Berkner Hall Auditorium

In 1981, Guth proposed the theory of the inflationary universe, a modification of the Big Bang theory, which is generally accepted by scientists to explain how the universe began. Nevertheless, the Big Bang theory leaves some questions, and the theory of inflation attempts to answer them. Guth states that a repulsive gravitational force generated by an exotic form of matter brought about the expansion of the universe. He postulates that the universe underwent an expansion of astronomical proportions within the first trillionth of a second of its existence, during which the seeds for its large-scale structure were generated.

Guth and colleagues have further explored the possibility of mimicking inflation in a hypothetical laboratory, thereby creating a new universe, and they concluded that it might be theoretically possible. If it happened, the new universe would not endanger our own universe. Instead, it would slip through a wormhole, a hypothetical space-time travel shortcut, and rapidly disconnect from our universe. In this talk, Guth will explain the inflationary theory and review the features that make it scientifically plausible. In addition, he will discuss the biggest mystery in cosmology: Why is the value of the cosmological constant, sometimes called the "anti-gravity" effect, so remarkably small compared to theoretical expectations? Guth will explain how the inflationary theory, combined with other ideas from elementary particle physics and cosmology, can provide a possible explanation for this discrepancy.

Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

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