Lerner at a Google TechTalks presentation in 2007
Eric J. Lerner
May 31, 1947
|Citizenship||United States of America|
Eric J. Lerner (born May 31, 1947) is an American popular science writer, and independent plasma researcher. He wrote the 1991 book The Big Bang Never Happened, which advocates Hannes Alfvén's plasma cosmology instead of the Big Bang theory. He is founder, president, and chief scientist of Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. In January 2020, Eric Lerner proposed the "Galactic Origin of Light Elements" (GOLE) hypothesis to help explain the beginnings of the universe, and is an alternative model to 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). NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has funded mainstream as well as alternative approaches to fusion, and between 1994 and 2001 NASA provided a grant to Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, the company of which Lerner was the only employee, to explore whether Lerner's alternative approach to fusion might be useful to propel spacecraft; a 2007 New York Times article noted that Lerner had not received funding from the US Department of Energy. 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 January 28, 2011, LPP published preliminary results. In March, 2012, the company published a paper saying 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. In 2012 the company announced a collaboration with a lab at the Islamic Azad University Central Tehran Branch in Iran.
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 a book by Lerner 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. As a way of partially acknowledging this, Lerner asserts that away from equilibrium order can spontaneously form by taking advantage of energy flows, as argued more recently by American astrophysicist Eric Chaisson.
Lerner's ideas have been rejected by the professional physicists and cosmologists who have reviewed them. In these critiques, critics have explained that, contrary to Lerner's assertions, the size of superclusters is a feature limited by subsequent observations to the end of greatness and is consistent with having arisen 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 and Planck.
Physical cosmologists who have commented on the book have generally dismissed it. In particular, American astrophysicist and cosmologist Edward L. Wright was critical of Lerner for making errors of fact and interpretation, and criticized specifics of Lerner's alternative cosmology, arguing 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 U.S. 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.
- Lerner, Eric (1992). "Force-Free Magnetic Filaments and the Cosmic Background Radiation" (PDF). IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science. 20 (6): 935. Bibcode:1992ITPS...20..935L. doi:10.1109/27.199554. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-09-05. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
- John Wilford, "Novel Theory Challenges The Big Bang", New York Times, February 28, 1989
- Eric Lerner's biography page at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc.
- Passant Rabie, Passant (January 8, 2020). "Did the Big Bang really happen? Scientist disputes universe's origin story". Inverse. New York: Bustle Digital Group. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
- Lerner, Eric J. A Reassessment of the Galactic Origin of Light Elementss (PDF). 235th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (Abstract). Honolulu, HI. 404.07. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
- Columbia Alumni Directory, 1988 edition, p.211
- E. J. Lerner (1991). The Big Bang Never Happened. New York and Toronto: Random House. ISBN 978-0-8129-1853-3. pages 12 - 14, footnote on page 388, 286 - 316, 242
- Biography at the Space Show Archived 2006-11-24 at the Wayback Machine, 2006
- Kenneth Chang, "Practical Fusion, or Just a Bubble?", New York Times, February 27, 2007
- JPL Contract 959962 Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine, 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. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- "LPP Receives Major Investments, Initiates Experimental Project". Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. November 22, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- "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; Fred Van Roessel (23 March 2012). "Fusion reactions from >150 keV ions in a dense plasma focus plasmoid". Physics of Plasmas. 19 (3): 032704. Bibcode:2012PhPl...19c2704L. doi:10.1063/1.3694746.
- 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".
- Knapp, Alex (June 4, 2012). "U.S. Company Teams With Iranian University To Develop Fusion Power". Forbes.
- ESO Senior Visits in 2006, activities Archived 2011-05-24 at the Wayback Machine, 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 978-0-00-654115-8.
- 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). Archived from the original on 2006-09-25.
- 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 & 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". Archived from the original on 2016-01-08. 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" Archived 2006-09-07 at the Wayback Machine, Columbia University archives, May 4, 1968. Lists Eric Lerner as one of the committee members.
- Eric Lerner | Columbia University 1968
- King, Dennis (1989). "Chapter 32". Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-23880-9.
- 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", The 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.