Chaotic inflation theory centers on the idea that our universe is one of many that has grown out of a never-ending sort of parent universe. The general idea is that our cosmos is just one part of an unlimited multiverse in which universes constantly spawn new universes. Physicist Andrei Linde developed this spin on inflation theory in the 1980s.
Linde, a professor at Stanford University, is one of several astronomers who say that the more widely accepted Big Bang theory has a few holes. Although the Big Bang explains much of how the universe began, Linde says the theory can't account for the fact that the universe was not all created in one single moment. What's more, he asks what banged and what existed before the bang [source: Shackelford].
Inflationary cosmology might answer some of these vexing questions. In this theory, the universe first exploded faster than the speed of light, but it did so from a tiny proton and in a miniscule amount of time. Linde believes this phenomenon can even be re-created in a lab -- and with little in terms of resources [source: Holt]. Linde built on the work of Alexei Starobinsky of Moscow, who first developed an inflation model in 1979. The complicated model was improved by Stanford physicist Alan Guth before being tackled by Linde. Although Big Bang theorists believe that the bang accounts entirely for the early universe, Linde said that the universe could expand at any point in space if the right potential energy was available.
The chaos comes from the fact that the universe has no single law of physics but is self-producing and that multiverses might exist where any number of possibilities can occur. Unlike the single event of the Big Bang, chaotic inflation was irregular -- as is the universe it created. Although chaotic inflation still is a theory -- and not a proven model for how the universe was formed or behaves -- there has been some scientific validation of the ideas behind it. In 1990, the NASA Cosmic Background Explorer satellite found the sorts of small variations in intensity of cosmic background radiation that would be expected with chaotic inflation [source: Shackelford].
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