Lerner at a Google TechTalks presentation in 2007
|Born||Eric J. Lerner
May 31, 1947 
|Citizenship||United States of America|
Eric J. Lerner (born 1947) is an American popular science writer, independent plasma researcher, and president of Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. He authored the 1991 book The Big Bang Never Happened, which advocates Hannes Alfvén's Plasma Cosmology instead of the Big Bang theory.
Lerner received a BA in physics from Columbia University and started as a graduate student in physics at the University of Maryland, but left after a year due to his dissatisfaction with the mathematical rather than experimental approach there. He then pursued a career in popular science writing.
In 1984, he began studying plasma phenomena and laboratory fusion devices, performing experimental work on a machine called a dense plasma focus (DPF). Lerner received funding from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1994 and 2001 to explore whether the dense plasma focus could be an effective ion thruster to propel spacecraft. He believes that a dense plasma focus can also be used to produce useful aneutronic fusion energy. Lerner explained his "Focus Fusion" approach in a 2007 Google Tech Talk. On November 14, 2008, Lerner received funding for continued research, to test the scientific feasibility of Focus Fusion. On October 15, 2009, the DPF device "Focus Fusion-1" achieved its first pinch. On January 28, 2011, LPP published initial results including experimental shots with considerably higher fusion yields than the historical DPF trend. In March, 2012, the company announced that it had achieved temperatures of 1.8 billion degrees, beating the old record of 1.1 billion that had survived since 1978. One independent expert stated that they were not close to a commercial fusion reactor with this device.
Lerner is also an active general science writer, estimating that he has had about 600 articles published. He has received journalism awards between 1984 and 1993 from the Aviation Space Writers Association. In 2006 he was a Visiting Scientist at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.
The Big Bang Never Happened
The Big Bang Never Happened: A Startling Refutation of the Dominant Theory of the Origin of the Universe (1991) is Lerner's controversial book which rejects mainstream Big Bang cosmology, and instead advances a non-standard plasma cosmology originally proposed by Hannes Alfvén in the 1960s. The book appeared at a time when results from the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite were of some concern to astrophysicists who expected to see cosmic microwave background anisotropies but instead measured a blackbody spectrum with little variation across the sky. Lerner referred to this as evidence that the Big Bang was a failed paradigm. He also denigrated the observational evidence for dark matter and recounted a well known cosmological feature that superclusters are larger than the largest structures that could have formed through gravitational collapse in the age of the universe.
As an alternative to the Big Bang, Lerner adopted Alfvén's model of plasma cosmology that relied on plasma physics to explain most, if not all, cosmological observations by appealing to electromagnetic forces. Adopting an eternal universe, Lerner's explanation of cosmological evolution relied on a model of thermodynamics based on the work of the Nobel Chemistry prize winner Ilya Prigogine under which order emerges from chaos. This is in apparent defiance of the second law of thermodynamics though only if the universe is finite, as asserted by modern cosmology. Lerner asserts that away from equilibrium order can spontaneously form by taking advantage of energy flows, as argued more recently by Eric Chaisson, an American astrophysicist.
Lerner's criticisms of the Big Bang theory have been rejected by some physicists and cosmologists who have reviewed his book. The size of superclusters is a feature that has been limited by subsequent observations to the end of greatness and explained in the astronomical journals as arising from a power spectrum of density fluctuations growing from the quantum fluctuations predicted in inflationary models. Anisotropies were discovered in subsequent analysis of the both COBE and BOOMERanG experiments and were more fully characterized by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe.
Physical cosmologists who have commented on the book have generally dismissed it. In particular, Edward L. Wright, the American astrophysicist and cosmologist, was critical of Lerner for making errors of fact and interpretation and criticized specifics of Lerner's alternative cosmology, claiming that:
- Lerner's alternative model for Hubble's Law is dynamically unstable
- the number density of distant radio sources falsifies Lerner's explanation for the cosmic microwave background
- Lerner's explanation that the helium abundance is due to stellar nucleosynthesis fails because of the small observed abundance of heavier elements
Lerner has disputed Wright's critique.
In the 1970s, Lerner became involved in the National Caucus of Labor Committees, an offshoot of the Columbia University Students for a Democratic Society. Lerner left the National Caucus in 1978, later stating in a lawsuit that he had resisted pressure from the US Labor Party, an organization led by Lyndon LaRouche, to violate election law by channeling profits of an engineering firm to the organization.
More recently, Lerner sought civil rights protection for immigrants as a member and spokesman for the New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee. He participated in the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.
- John Wilford, "Novel Theory Challenges The Big Bang", New York Times, February 28, 1989
- Eric Lerner's biography page at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc.
- Columbia Alumni Directory, 1988 edition, p.211
- E. J. Lerner (1991). The Big Bang Never Happened. New York and Toronto: Random House. ISBN 0-8129-1853-3. pages 12 - 14, footnote on page 388, 286 - 316, 242
- Biography at the Space Show, 2006
- Kenneth Chang, "Practical Fusion, or Just a Bubble?", New York Times, February 27, 2007
- JPL Contract 959962, pg 8, and JPL Contract 960283
- Patrick Huyghe, "3 Ideas That Are Pushing the Edge of Science", Discover Magazine, June 2008
- A Novel Form of Fusion Power, The Economist, October 22, 2009
- Lerner, Eric (3 October 2007). "Focus Fusion: The Fastest Route to Cheap, Clean Energy" (video). Google TechTalks. Google. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- "LPP Receives Major Investments, Initiates Experimental Project". Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. November 22, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- "Focus-Fusion-1 Works! First shots and first pinch achieved October 15, 2009.". Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. October;15, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
- "Theory and Experimental Program for p-B11 Fusion with the Dense Plasma Focus". Journal of Fusion Energy. January;28, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
- Lerner, Eric J.; S. Krupakar Murali, Derek Shannon, Aaron M. Blake and Fred Van Roessel (23 March 2012). "Fusion reactions from >150 keV ions in a dense plasma focus plasmoid". Physics of Plasmas 19 (3). doi:10.1063/1.3694746. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- Halper, Mark (March 28, 2012). "Fusion breakthrough". Smart PLanet. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
- "Why Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Results are Not Even Wrong; a Detailed Analysis.".
- ESO Senior Visits in 2006, activities, and ESO Santiago Science Colloquia and Seminars 2006
- Marcus Chown, "Did the Big Bang Really Happen?", New Scientist, 2 July 2005
- Prigogine, Ilya; Stengers, Isabelle (1984). Order out of Chaos: Man's new dialogue with nature. Flamingo. ISBN 0-00-654115-1.
- Michael Chorost (January 21, 2012). "The Ascent of Life". New Scientist (2848): 35–37.
- Stenger, Victor J. (Summer 1992). "Is the Big Bang a Bust?". Skeptical Inquirer 16 (412).
- Wright, Edward L. "Errors in "The Big Bang Never Happened"
- "Big Bang Theory Makes Sense of Cosmic Facts; No Contradiction", New York Times, June 18, 1991
- "Did the Big Bang Happen?", New York Times, September 1, 1991
- Feuerbacher and Scranton. "Evidence for the Big Bang".
- Macandrew, Alec. "The Big Bang is not a Myth".
- A critique of the tactics of Eric Lerner mentioning him explicitly by name appears on Sean Carroll's blog, Preposterous Universe
- "The Big Bang Never Happened: Dr Wright is Wrong". Retrieved 2008-07-13.
- Kasra Manoocheri, "Selma Interview: Eric Lerner", Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement web site, February 2007
- "A Memorandum from the Strike Education Committee", Columbia University archives, May 4, 1968. Lists Eric Lerner as one of the committee members.
- http://www.columbia1968.com/eric_lerne/ rel="nofollow"
- King, Dennis (1989). "Chapter 32". Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-23880-0.
- Dennis King; Patricia Lynch (1986-05-27). "The Empire of Lyndon LaRouche". Wall Street Journal (Eastern ed.). p. 1.
- Spencer S. Hsu, "Immigrants Mistreated, Report Says", Washington Post, January 17, 2007; A08
- Eman Varoqua, "Not Everyone Is A Terrorist", The Record (Bergen County, NJ), December 7, 2004
- Harkinson, Josh. "Occupy Protesters' One Demand: A New New Deal—Well, Maybe", Mother Jones, October 18, 2011. http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/10/occupy-wall-street-demands-new-deal rel="nofollow"
- Eric J. Lerner Home Page
- Focus Fusion Society
- Big Bang Never Happened Home Page and Summary
- Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc.
- Cem anos após Engels, onde está o enfoque histórico nas ciências? (Portuguese)