The Self-Reproducing Inflationary Universe; November 1994; Scientific American Magazine; by Linde; 8 Page(s)
If my colleagues and I are right, we may soon be saying good-bye to the idea that our universe was a single fireball created in the big bang. We are exploring a new theory based on a 15- year-old notion that the universe went through a stage of inflation. During that time, the theory holds, the cosmos became exponentially large within an in- finitesimal fraction of a second. At the end of this period, the universe continued its evolution according to the big bang model. As workers refined this inflationary scenario, they uncovered some surprising consequences. One of them constitutes a fundamental change in how the cosmos is seen. Recent versions of inflationary theory assert that instead of being an expanding ball of fire the universe is a huge, growing fractal. It consists of many inflating balls that produce new balls, which in turn produce more balls, ad infinitum.
Cosmologists did not arbitrarily invent this rather peculiar vision of the universe. Several workers, first in Russia and later in the U.S., proposed the inflationary hypothesis that is the basis of its foundation. We did so to solve some of the complications left by the old big bang idea. In its standard form, the big bang theory maintains that the universe was born about 15 billion years ago from a cosmological singularity--a state in which the temperature and density are infinitely high. Of course, one cannot really speak in physical terms about these quantities as being infinite. One usually assumes that the current laws of physics did not apply then. They took hold only after the density of the universe dropped below the so-called Planck density, which equals about 1094 grams per cubic centimeter.