Bigelow Aerospace has been quietly and methodically building a presence in Space. With the success of its Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 modules currently in orbit, Bigelow has decided to go straight to a full Space Station. Inflation of launch prices convinced them to take this next giant step soon. Capable of supporting a crew of 3, Sundancer will be available for science, private industry and even hotels. It will be in orbit by 2010, about the time ISS is finally finished. You read it here first last September Inflatable Space.
Another kind of inflation has not made progress. 30 years ago when rising prices were on everyone's mind, Alan Guth suggested that the early Universe expanded at warp speed, faster than light. Speculation about inflation has kept physicists in grants for years. The idea can not be tested, and relies on an ethereal repulsive energy. As with the string enterprise, scientists are getting uneasy. Space.com continues the story:
"Inflation is an extremely powerful theory, and yet we still have no idea what caused inflation-or whether it is even the correct theory, although it works extremely well," said Eric Agol, an astrophysicist at the University of Washington.
For some scientists, inflation is a clunky addition to the Big Bang model, a necessary complexity appended to make it fit with observations. Nor was it the last such addition.
"We've also learned there has to be dark matter in the universe, and now dark energy," said Paul Steinhardt, a theoretical physicist at Princeton University. "So the way the model works today is you say, 'OK, you take some Big Bang, you take some inflation, you tune that to have the following properties, then you add a certain amount of dark matter and dark energy.' These things aren't connected in a coherent theory."
Inflation and a repulsive "dark energy" are part of cosmology's standard model. Like the epicycles of old, the model is filled of such epicycles to explain the Universe. Not all physicists are happy with this unwieldy concorde. They are just waiting to see a better theory.