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In the 1980s American scientists Alan Guth and Paul Steinhardt and Soviet American astronomer Andreas Linde advanced an important cosmological theory called the inflationary theory. This theory deals with the behavior of the universe for only a tiny fraction of a second at the beginning of the universe. Theorists believe that the events of that fraction of a second, however, determined how the universe came to be the way it is now and how it will change in the future.

The inflationary theory states that, starting only about 1 × 10-35 second after the big bang and lasting for only about 1 × 10-32 second, the universe expanded to 1 × 1050 times its previous size. The numbers 1 × 10-35 and 1 × 10-32 are very small—a decimal point followed by 34 zeros and then a 1, and a decimal point followed by 31 zeros and then a 1, respectively.

The number 1 × 1050 is incredibly large—a 1 followed by 50 zeros. This extremely rapid inflation would explain why the universe appears so homogeneous: In its earliest moments, the universe had been compact enough to become uniform, and the expansion was rapid enough to preserve that uniformity over the portion of the universe observable to us.


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