Eric J. Lerner
May 31, 1947
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
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. now known as LPPFusion.
Since November 2009, LPPFusion has operated a working experimental fusion energy device FF-1. This device is distinct for its unique dense plasma focus (DPF) design that contrasts with the prevailing magnetic confinement (chiefly tokamak and stellerator) configurations or laser-based, inertial confinement models. Lerner characterizes DPF as exploiting “a series of natural instabilities in the plasma, with each instability further concentrating the plasma and the magnetic field produced by the currents running through the plasma. In the past few decades, substantial advances have occurred in understanding the basic physics of such instabilities through experiments and observations of space plasma.”
Among fusion competitors the FF-2B fusion energy device has set several performance benchmarks, leading one commentator to identify LPPFusion designs as “Nuclear Fusion the easy way”. 
The FF-2B experimental fusion energy is unique and having achieved two of the three performance criteria required to achieve breakeven reactor performance that includes small amounts of net fusion energy.
LPPFusion world records
In 2017, Lerner et al published evidence of confined ion energies in excess of 200 keV, with the best “shot” having a mean ion energy of 240 keV ± 20 keV (nearly 3 Billion degrees C) which was reported as a record for any type of fusion device. Such temperatures are 200 times hotter than core temperatures of the sun.
Furthermore, among all fusion devices, the LPPFusion FF-2B design has achieved a new world record for purity in a fusion-producing plasma.  Reducing impurity levels has long been extremely important in fusion research. Impurity elements can greatly increase radiation that cools the plasma, preventing the achievement of the high temperatures needed for fusion and eroding device components. According to Lerner, “LPPFusion’s reduction of plasma impurity levels are better than any achieved elsewhere, and this is a major step forward for fusion energy research.”
Significantly, the machine has achieved two of the three Lawson criteria (dubbed “nτT ”); namely, temperature, and confinement time (T and tau), leaving only the density metric (n) as the last barrier to achieving a controlled, fusion energy reaction. Among privately funded fusion devices that have published their research milestones, the LPPFusion device has the highest n,tau,T by a wide margin.
Among private fusion efforts, the FF-2B device also has achieved the highest “wall-plug” efficiency, ie net energy produced in fusion reaction of its type. At a total development cost of $11 million dollars-- $9 million of which mostly came from small investors-- the LPPFusion device is far and away the most cost-effective investment in fusion energy, where billions are often the norm.
Advances in plasma physics theory
Eric Lerner and colleagues have published important theoretical understanding of plasma physics in fusion devices and in astrophysics, advancing groundwork developed by distinguished pioneers.
Aneutronic fusion energy
The chief advantage of a DPF design is that it is aneutronic, and thus generates negligible radioactivity in its operation. Radioactive contamination is a key liability in tokamak designs that some scientists have declared effectively disqualifies tokamaks as likely templates for commercial fusion energy.
Heretofore FF-2B utilizes a deuterium based fuel (D-D), for experimental purposes, but later this year LPPFusion is scheduled to introduce a far more potent hydrogen-boron mixture (pB11), which fusion energy company TAE and Japanese company recently demonstrated to be a viable fuel for aneutronic fusion reactors.
Significant re-designs of LPPFusion devices between 2015-2022 solved one challenge that impeded the fusion process. The first barrier to reaching fusion is the contamination of debris – mostly metallic oxides-- that infiltrated the plasma. This occurs when operating the LPPFusion reactors at ultra-high temperatures of nearly 3 Billion degrees C. Intensive investigation of the device focused on new coatings and materials, and resized components that eliminated reaction by-products that inhibited effective plasma phases leading to a robust plasmoid, where the fusion reaction actually occurs.
Recent developments (2023)
One further challenge needed to be addressed and this phase of research on the FF-2B research reactor: achieving complete symmetry of plasma filaments that proliferate up the central anode. The solution required the invention and engineering of capacitor switches that fire within a few micro-seconds of each other. That was achieved in the spring of 2023. As of June, 2023 the FF-2B is poised to execute a series of trial “shots” in anticipation of heightened performance.
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.
Lerner is 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.
Lawrenceville Plasma Physics
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. In 2012 the company announced a collaboration with a lab at the Islamic Azad University Central Tehran Branch in Iran. In October 2021, the company announced improved results with the latest version of its device, with reduced erosion and higher temperatures, but the prior month, an independent expert stated that they were not close to a commercial fusion reactor with this device.
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 in the 1960s by Hannes Alfvén, the 1970 Nobel Prize recipient in Physics. 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 mainstream physicists and cosmologists. 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 both the 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 criticized Lerner for making errors of fact and interpretation, 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.
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, E.J. (December 1992). "Force-free magnetic filaments and the cosmic background radiation". IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science. 20 (6): 935–938. Bibcode:1992ITPS...20..935L. doi:10.1109/27.199554.[non-primary source needed]
- John Wilford, "Novel Theory Challenges The Big Bang", New York Times, February 28, 1989
- Eric Lerner's biography page at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc.
- "Eric Lerner | the Space Show".
- reference needed
- Focus Fusion: Overview of Progress Towards p-B11 Fusion with the Dense Plasma Focus (Lerner, EJ; Hassan, S; Karamitsos-Zitkovic,I; Fritsch, R) “Experimental results” section Journal of Fusion Energy volume 42, Article number: 7 (2023)
- Ibid, “Dense Plasma Focus (DPF)” Section
- “Focus fusion is hottest idea in nuclear energy” Jonathan Tennenbaum , Asia Times, July 29, 2020 https://asiatimes.com/2020/07/focus-fusion-is-the-hottest-idea-in-nuclear-energy-2/
- E.J. Lerner, S.M. Hassan, I. Karamitsos, F. Von Roessel, Phys. Plasmas 24, 102708 (2017)
- Ibid (6)-"World-Record Confined Ion Energy" Section
- Ibid- "World-Record Confined Ion Energy" Section
- Ibid (6) section Highest nτT Product Among Private Fusion Efforts"
- Ibid (6) section “World Record Fusion Plasma Purity”
- Ibid (6) “Highest nτT Product Among Private Fusion Efforts” section In common units, the FF-2B has achieved an nτT of 3.4 ± 0.8 × 1020 keV-s/m3. TAE Technology’s C-2W device with a nτT product of 2.3 × 1017 keV-s/m3, is a factor of more than 1,000 less than for FF-1, the earlier version of the FF-2B model.
- Ibid (6) section “Highest Wall-Plug Efficiency Among Private Fusion Efforts”
- Ibid (6) “Private Public Partnership for Fusion” section
- Ibid (6), “Theoretical Advances by LPPFusion Researchers” section Theoretical developments attributed to Lerner at al. include inter alia, Quantitative Model of DPF Functioning, Quantum Magnetic Field (QMF) Effect, Control of Angular Momentum and Efficiency of Energy Transfer to the Plasmoid
- (CITATION NEEDED) Lerner was mentored in DPL concepts by Winston Bostick of the Stevens Institute; and influenced by Hannes Alfven in the astronomical plasma physics.
- Ibid (6), “Introduction—the Promise of p-B11 Fusion Fuel” section
- Hirsch, Robert L. (2017). "Necessary and sufficient conditions for practical fusion power". Physics Today. 70 (10): 11–13. doi:10.1063/PT.3.3708.
- Hirsch, Robert L. (July 1, 2015). "Fusion Research: Time to Set a New Path". Issues in Science and Technology. XXXI (4). Retrieved November 20, 2023.
- Ibid, “Current Experimental Challenges and Path to Net energy” section
- Magee, R. M.; Ogawa, K.; Tajima, T.; Allfrey, I.; Gota, H.; McCarroll, P.; Ohdachi, S.; Isobe, M.; Kamio, S.; Klumper, V.; Nuga, H.; Shoji, M.; Ziaei, S.; Binderbauer, M. W.; Osakabe, M. (February 21, 2023). "First measurements of p11B fusion in a magnetically confined plasma". Nature Communications. 14 (1): 955. Bibcode:2023NatCo..14..955M. doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36655-1. PMC 9941502. PMID 36804939.
- ibid (6) “World Record Fusion Plasma Purity” section
- ibid (6) “World Record Fusion Plasma Purity” section
- Ibid (6)” Current Experimental Challenges and Path to Net energy” section
- Ibid (6), “Dense Plasma Focus (DPF)” Section
- Columbia Alumni Directory, 1988 edition, p.211
- E. J. Lerner (1991). The Big Bang Never Happened. New York and Toronto: Random House. pp. 12–14, footnote on page 388, 286–316, 242. ISBN 978-0-8129-1853-3.[non-primary source needed]
- Biography at the Space Show Archived November 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, 2006
- ESO Senior Visits in 2006, activities Archived May 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, and ESO Santiago Science Colloquia and Seminars 2006
- Chang, Kenneth (February 27, 2007). "Practical Fusion, or Just a Bubble?". The New York Times.
- Frisbee, Robert H. (1996). The NASA-JPL Advanced Propulsion Program (Report). p. 8, and JPL Contract 960283. hdl:2014/23572.
- 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 (October 3, 2007). "Focus Fusion: The Fastest Route to Cheap, Clean Energy" (video). Google TechTalks. Retrieved January 8, 2009.
- "LPP Receives Major Investments, Initiates Experimental Project". Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. November 22, 2008. Retrieved January 8, 2009.
- Lerner, Eric J.; Krupakar Murali, S.; Haboub, A. (October 2011). "Theory and Experimental Program for p-B11 Fusion with the Dense Plasma Focus". Journal of Fusion Energy. 30 (5): 367–376. Bibcode:2011JFuE...30..367L. doi:10.1007/s10894-011-9385-4. S2CID 122230379.[non-primary source needed]
- Lerner, Eric J.; S. Krupakar Murali; Derek Shannon; Aaron M. Blake; Fred Van Roessel (March 23, 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. S2CID 120207711.
- Halper, Mark (March 28, 2012). "Fusion breakthrough". Smart PLanet. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
- Knapp, Alex (June 4, 2012). "U.S. Company Teams With Iranian University To Develop Fusion Power". Forbes.
- Wang, Brian. "LPP Fusion Increases Current and Reaches First Fusion Results | NextBigFuture.com". Retrieved December 9, 2021.
- "Impedans Ltd | Why Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Results are Not Even Wrong; a Detailed Analysis". www.impedans.com. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
- Marcus Chown, "Did the Big Bang Really Happen?", New Scientist, July 2, 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. 213 (2848): 35–37. Bibcode:2012NewSc.213...35C. doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(12)60181-X.
- Stenger, Victor J. (Summer 1992). "Is the Big Bang a Bust?". Skeptical Inquirer. 16 (412). Archived from the original on September 25, 2006.
- Wright, Edward L. "Errors in "The Big Bang Never Happened"
- "Opinion | Big Bang Theory Makes Sense of Cosmic Facts; No Contradiction". The New York Times. June 18, 1991.
- "Did the Big Bang Happen?". The 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[user-generated source?]
- "The Big Bang Never Happened: Dr Wright is Wrong". Archived from the original on January 8, 2016. Retrieved July 13, 2008.
- Kasra Manoocheri, "Selma Interview: Eric Lerner", Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement web site, February 2007
- "A Memorandum from the Strike Education Committee" Archived September 7, 2006, 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 (May 27, 1986). "The Empire of Lyndon LaRouche". Wall Street Journal (Eastern ed.). p. 1.
- "Immigrants Mistreated, Report Says". Washington Post. January 17, 2007. Retrieved November 20, 2023.
- Eman Varoqua, "Not Everyone Is A Terrorist", The Record (Bergen County, NJ), December 7, 2004
- Harkinson, Josh (October 18, 2011). "Occupy Protesters' One Demand: A New New Deal—Well, Maybe". Mother Jones.