that England was the most civilized of all places, he commented, anthropic reasoning purports that our universe is the most civilized of all possibilities.

Other scientists, such as Roger Penrose, suggested a more mathematical way of constraining the initial state of the universe to be isotropic. In the “Weyl curvature hypothesis,” he proposed that a segment of the Riemann tensor, called the Weyl tensor (after Hermann Weyl), must be zero at the beginning of time. A zero Weyl tensor is tantamount to pure isotropy. However, his and other people’s erudite arguments would soon be overwhelmed by a simple device.

It would be Russians and Americans, still vying in the Cold War, who would arrive at a forceful solution. “Just blow it up,” members of these nuclear superpowers proposed. No civilized selection process would be needed if the universe once underwent a period of ultrarapid expansion, much faster than the initial blast of the Big Bang. Everything would simply be evened out, like a forest after a tornado.


Like many aspects of science, the origins of the inflationary model of the universe are somewhat complex. In 1981 physicist Alan Guth proposed the term “inflation” to describe an early period of extremely rapid expansion. His goal was to help resolve the flatness, horizon, and other problems plaguing the standard Big Bang model. Thus the scientific community considers him the father of inflation.

Largely unknown to the West at that time, however, Russian scientists had developed aspects of this notion even earlier. In the early 1970s, Andrei Linde and David Kirzhnits, of Moscow’s prestigious Lebedev Physical Institute, first investigated the cosmological consequences of symmetry breaking in the very early universe. Symmetry breaking is a transformation in particle physics that creates a favored direction, akin to a spinning top falling over to one side. These ideas

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