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Q&A

What is inflation in cosmology?

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I am having trouble understanding what a cosmic inflation is.

Please try to suffice an explanation for non physicists / non formal students for physics / general audience.


I understand that an inflation situation usually means a process where something is growing in volume but not in mass ; like inflating a balloon or making prices higher in general although the money worths pretty much the same in worldly currency trade.


Given that our universe expands (an expansion which isn't considered "inflation" for some reason) in a void which might include one or more other universe/s (static or expanding), what could be an "inflation" in that regard?

The only thing I could imagine is when quantum particles "suddenly" appear in another area in the void to form a new universe or to expand an existing universe.

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Due to entropy, the universe is worth less over time. Olin Lathrop‭ 25 days ago

Hello, did you mean to say that the universe looses mass to the surrounding void "rogue mass" (I guess I have just invented a term in physics)? JohnDoea‭ 25 days ago

1 answer

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Inflation in cosmology refers to a phase of the early universe where the universe expanded extremely fast. And the universe expanding quite literally means the space getting bigger.

As you noticed, cosmic inflation does not refer to just any expansion of the universe. The universe is still expanding, and the expansion rate even increases, but that is not what the term cosmic inflation refers to; it is only the extremely fast expansion that must have occurred in the very early universe that is referred to with this word.

As driver for this ultra-fast expansion, cosmologists hypothesise a so-called inflaton field which drove the expansion, and which essentially disappeared at the end of inflation.

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"As driver for this ultra-fast expansion, cosmologists hypothesise a so-called inflaton field which drove the expansion, and which essentially disappeared at the end of inflation." In other words, "We have no clue, so we're going to say magic happened.". Olin Lathrop‭ about 19 hours ago

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