Essay:A Random Proposal by an Amateur for the Mechanism for Inflation
I would like to initially warn the reader about a some things. I'm not a professional cosmologist or theoretical physicist nor have I studied cosmology or physics as part of my (yet to begin) university education (although I'd like to). I'm just really interested in it and happen to be pretty intelligent (at least in my opinion). I don't have enough knowledge concerning things like virtual particles and mathematical equations to really back up any assertions I make and it's very possible that a simple scientific fact or piece of math is enough to sink my proposal. So with that in mind, here is my random, amateur proposal for the mechanism for inflation...
The mechanism itself is one or more pairs of virtual particles. Due to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the virtual particles can briefly pop into existence out of nothing and then annihilate each other (it's more complicated then that and it involves borrowing energy and stuff but I don't want to try to get into it for fear of making an incorrect statement and embarrassing myself). It is possible for virtual particles to have negative energy and negative energy is gravitationally repulsive. So it makes sense to me that virtual particles with negative energy have anti-gravity properties. Here I'll stress again that I'm no expert in this field and that what seems clear and logical to me could be incorrect. But sticking with my hunch, I'll continue.
The universe was really really really tiny at the moment of the Big Bang and would have contained a ginormous amount of energy (all the energy and matter of today). That would be more than enough energy to allow virtual particles to form. Whether or not virtual particles could survive or even be created within the monumentally extreme conditions of the very early universe (well within the the first fractions of the first second) I don't know. But assuming they could be created and survive, these virtual particles with their negative energy could have exerted this anti-gravity force on the tiny universe. This is the essence of my amateur proposal. The expansion of the early universe during inflation was much more rapid than while inflation was "off." The added boost that the virtual particles' anti-gravity force would give to the already expanding universe could be manifested as inflation and provide the reason why it started. Inflation occurred for a very brief time and the universe would have still been very small when it started and finished. Virtual particles would have been relatively huge compared to such a small universe. Even if the anti-gravity force exerted by the virtual particles was minuscule, the particles would be so big compared with the tiny universe that their force could have a noticeable effect - inflation.
Now for some figures. Inflation occurred between 10-36 seconds and 10-33 or 10-32 seconds. So if my proposal is right, the first virtual particles, for whatever reason, appeared at about 10-36 seconds and annihilated each other at either 10-33 or 10-32 seconds. The lifetime of virtual particles is on the order of 10-43 seconds. Now I'm afraid to say that my grasp on math embarrassingly obstructs me here, especially with the epic magnitude of these minuscule numbers, and I have to ask for your forgiveness for the following pathetic-sounding mathematical statement (that's probably very obvious to you). 10-43 seconds seems a lot less than the difference between 10-36 seconds and 10-33 seconds. So it seems that a pair of virtual particles wouldn't last long enough for inflation's time-span (especially considering that the more energy, the shorter the virtual particle's lifespan). To me there are two possible vindications for Virtual-Particles-Causing-Inflation Theory. One, calculations (which would have come about indirectly, of course) for such mind-boggling numbers (i.e. lifespan of virtual particles, time-span of inflation, etc) could be skewed a bit due to the inherently hard-to-calculate (for lack of a better word) nature of these things. And two, multiple pairs of virtual particles could be using their anti-gravity properties to drive inflation. Even though the lifespan of one pair is too small to fit inflation's time span, multiple pairs could occur throughout it and once the universe got to a certain size at 10-33 or 10-32 seconds (when inflation ended) the virtual particles' anti-gravity properties didn't have an effect anymore on the rate of expansion (because the universe would now be too big). Thus, my proposal doesn't just provide a mechanism for starting inflation, it provides a reason for why inflation suddenly "turned off."
So that's my totally superior and infallibly well-backed up proposal. Hopefully I wrote it coherently enough for you to understand. Even though it seems to my unprofessional mind to be a possibility for inflation, it doesn't necessarily mean I believe in it. I don't think I'm mathematically proficient enough to take the figures of inflation's time-span and virtual particles' lifespan and throw them in with the universe's rate of expansion and other relevant figures and come up with verdict on whether or not this proposal is plausible. When I undoubtedly win a Nobel Prize some day for it, I promise to share part of the money with the RationalWiki Foundation for providing a place for my ideas.