In 1979 Alan Guth, then a postdoc at Cornell, made what is perhaps the most important contribution to our theoretical understanding of the evolution of the Universe in the past half century. His realization that the early universe could have undergone a brief period of what he dubbed as “Inflation” provided the first and to date the only explanation of the large scale properties of the Universe compatible with observations, and based on well-defined, calculable, microphysical physics principles. Since that time, Inflation has become the paradigm of modern cosmology, and it made fundamental predictions about other observables in cosmology that have since been validated by observations of the Cosmo Microwave Background Radiation.
I was particularly happy to have Alan on the podcast for a variety of reasons. First and foremost he is a remarkably clear and precise expositor of science. Second, his own history in the field provides, I think, a good object lesson for young scientists who might be struggling. Third, it was important that he provide a counterpoint to the discussion I previously had with Roger Penrose, who has presented his own alternative to Inflation that is much less well-defined at this time. Finally, Alan is a lovely human being, and both a friend, and in some sense a mentor to me (having served on my thesis examination committee when he first came to MIT, and having been a colleague and co-author with me on scientific papers).
I hope you enjoy what I found to be a very enlightening discussion about science, and a revealing window into the thoughts of one of the most important cosmologists currently alive today.
The audio version is free to all on this Critical Mass site. An ad-free video is available on Critical mass for paid subscribers only, a video version with advertisements is available separately on the Origins Project Foundation YouTube Channel.