The Inaugural Bennett-McWilliams Lecture

  • Gates&Hillman Centers
  • Rashid Auditorium 4401
  • Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics
  • Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Distinguished Lecture Series

Inflationary Cosmology: Is Our Universe Part of a Multiverse?

Guth will explain how inflation works, emphasizing how inflation can account for the properties of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), which is viewed as the afterglow of the big bang explosion. This radiation is incredibly uniform, but has a pattern of faint ripples that are attributed by inflation to the probabilistic behavior of quantum theory. Observations have shown that these ripples agree beautifully with the patterns predicted by inflation. An interesting feature of inflation is that almost all versions of it lead to eternal inflation: once inflation starts, it goes on forever, producing a “multiverse” of “pocket universes,” one of which is our universe. While the multiverse idea is speculative, Guth will explain why he believes it should be taken seriously.


Alan H. Guth is the Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics and a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Trained in particle theory at MIT, Guth held postdoc positions at Princeton, Columbia, Cornell and SLAC before returning to MIT as a faculty member in 1980. His work in cosmology began at Cornell, when Henry Tye persuaded him to study the production of magnetic monopoles in the early universe. Using standard assumptions, they found that far too many would be produced. Continuing this work at SLAC, Guth discovered that the magnetic monopole glut could be avoided by a new proposal that he called the inflationary universe. Guth is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been awarded the Franklin Medal for Physics of the Franklin Institute, the Dirac Prize of the International Center for Theoretical Physics, the Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation, the Newton Prize of the Institute of Physics (UK), and the Fundamental Physics Prize. Guth is still busy exploring the consequences of inflation. He has also written a popular-level book called “The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins” (Addison-Wesley/ Perseus Books, 1997).

Reception to follow.

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