Is Our Universe a One-Off Fluke, or an Endless Cycle? – Facts So Romantic

Paul Steinhardt spoke animatedly to Nautilus about his views on inflation theory.

Paul Steinhardt is torn. On the one hand, he has been working on and contributing to the theory of inflation for decades. On the other hand, he thinks it may very well be wrong.

Inflation describes the early universe going through an unimaginably rapid expansion in its infancy, from the size of an atomic nucleus to something like the size of the current observable universe, in an infinitesimal fraction of a second. When it was proposed, in 1980, it promised to account for the remarkable uniformity of our observable universe. No matter which direction of the night sky you look in, you see about the same density of stars and galaxies—in sharp distinction to the expected turbulent, patchy nature of the early, pre-inflation universe.

But after 35 years of study, Steinhardt and others have begun to argue that the theory is wrong. He sat down with Nautilus to explain why.

What is inflationary theory?

Imagine I’m sitting at a table across from you. If the space between us started to stretch at the same rate that it theoretically did in the early universe, it would be going too…

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