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The Inflationary Framework

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  • The Inflationary Framework

    THE FABRIC of the COSMOS, Brian Greene, 2004
    ```(annotated and with added bold highlights by Epsilon=One)
    Chapter 10 - Deconstructing the Bang
    The Inflationary Framework
    Guth's discovery was quickly hailed as a major advance and has become a dominant fixture of cosmological research. But notice two things. First, in the standard big bang model, the bang supposedly happened at time zero, at the very beginning of the universe, so it is viewed as the creation event. But just as a stick of dynamite explodes only when it's properly lit, in inflationary cosmology the bang happened only when conditions were right when there was an inflaton field whose value provided the energy and negative pressure that fueled the outward burst of repulsive gravity and that need not have coincided with the "creation" of the universe. For this reason, the inflationary bang is best thought of as an event that the preexisting universe experienced, but not necessarily as the event that created the universe. We denote this in Figure 10.3 by maintaining some of the fuzzy patch of Figure 9.2, indicating our continuing ignorance of fundamental origin: specifically, if inflationary cosmology is right, our ignorance of why there is an inflaton field, why its potential energy bowl has the right shape for inflation to have occurred, why there are space and time within which the whole discussion takes place, and, in Leibniz's more grandiose phrasing, why there is something rather than nothing.

    A second and related observation is that inflationary cosmology is not a single, unique theory. Rather, it is a cosmological framework built around the realization that gravity can be repulsive and can thus drive a swelling of space. The precise details of the outward burst when it happened, how long it lasted, the strength of the outward push, the factor by which the universe expanded during the burst, the amount of energy the inflaton deposited in ordinary matter as the burst drew to a close, and so on depend on details, most notably the size and shape of the inflaton field's potential energy, that are presently beyond our ability to determine from theoretical considerations alone. So for many years physicists have studied all sorts of possibilities various shapes for the potential energy, various numbers of inflaton fields that work in tandem, and so on and determined which choices give rise to theories consistent with astronomical observations. The important thing is that there are aspects of inflationary cosmological theories that transcend the details and hence are common to essentially any realization. The outward burst itself, by definition, is one such feature, and hence any inflationary model comes with a bang. But there are a number of other features inherent to all inflationary models that are vital because they solve important problems that have stumped standard big bang cosmology.
    Last edited by Reviewer; 10-03-2012, 04:53 AM.