Carnegie Mellon University
November 25, 2013

Alan Guth to Present First Bennett-McWilliams Lecture in Cosmology

By Jocelyn Duffy

Alan Guth to Present First Bennett-McWilliams Lecture in Cosmology Alan Guth to Present First Bennett-McWilliams Lecture in Cosmology

Is our universe truly unique? Or could our universe be just one of many universes - part of what cosmologists call a multiverse? Leading astrophysicist Alan H. Guth will address this question during Carnegie Mellon's first Bennett-McWilliams Lecture.

Guth will speak at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3 in the Gates-Hillman Center's Rashid Auditorium. The lecture, titled "Inflationary Cosmology: Is Our Universe Part of a Multiverse" is free and open to the public.  

This marks the first in a series of lectures funded by alumni Fred Bennett (S ’86) and Bruce McWilliams (S ’78, ’78, ’81).

"We thank Fred Bennett and Bruce McWilliams for helping us to bring the world's leading cosmologists to Carnegie Mellon to interact with and inspire our faculty and students," said Fred Gilman, dean of the Mellon College of Science.

Guth, the Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics and a Margaret MacVicar Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was one of the inaugural recipients of the Milner Foundation's Fundamental Physics Prize in 2012. The $3 million prize - an award amount that exceeds that of the Nobel Prize - is awarded for transformative advances in the field of physics.

In 1980, Guth proposed a modification to the standard big bang theory. His model of cosmic inflation involves an exponential expansion of the universe a tiny fraction of a second after the big bang. Inflation explains why, at large distance scales, the universe is homogeneous and looks similar in all directions. Quantum fluctuations in density are the seeds for structure and get magnified to cosmic size with the universe's expansion to the present day.

Over the years, Guth's theory has been rigorously tested and refined, and is now widely accepted by physicists. Cosmologists have been able to detect the radiation left over from the big bang, called cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB). The patterns found in the CMB match those predicted by Guth's inflation theory.

In his lecture, Guth will explain how inflation works and how it can account for the properties seen in the CMB. He will also talk about how inflation could produce more than one universe or even a multiverse containing a number of "pocket universes."

Guth has also received the Franklin Medal for Physics from the Franklin Institute, the Dirac Prize from the International Center for Theoretical Physics, the Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation, and the Newton Prize of the U.K.'s Institute of Physics. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.