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Lerner's 1991 book, The Big Bang Never Happened.
Lerner's 1991 book, The Big Bang Never Happened.

Eric J. Lerner (born 1947) is currently the executive director of the Focus Fusion Society and president of Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. in West Orange, New Jersey, which describes itself as a technology research, consulting and communications firm. He is an independent plasma researcher and advocates plasma cosmology, a alternative cosmology. Connected to this, Lerner wrote a science book, The Big Bang Never Happened (1991), which criticized the research and theories regarding the Big Bang model as of 1991.


Personal history

Lerner was born in 1947 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He received a BA in physics from Columbia University and did graduate work in physics at the University of Maryland, College Park without completing a degree. Lerner wrote a popularization of plasma cosmology, The Big Bang Never Happened (1991). He has studied cosmic plasma phenomena and laboratory fusion devices, especially the dense plasma focus. Lerner describes himself as a life-long political activist, having been a participant in the 1965 Selma March, one of the committee members that helped organize the 1968 Columbia Student Strike, a current member of the NJ Civil Rights Defense Committee, and the Workers Democracy Network.

Scientific activities

Lerner is a critic of the Big Bang theory and advocates an infinitely old Universe. Lerner has proposed non-mainstream alternative mechanisms to explain quasars, structure formation, the microwave background, and the origin of light elements, all based on his plasma cosmology approach. He claims that the intergalactic medium is a strong absorber of the cosmic microwave background radiation with the absorption occurring in a fog of narrow filaments. He has suggested that data on the surface brightness of galaxies contradicts the predictions of expanding-universe models.

Lerner postulated that quasars are not related to black holes but are rather produced by a magnetic self-compression process similar to that occurring in the plasma focus. Lerner has done experimental work on the plasma focus funded by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in collaboration with the University of Illinois in 1994, and with Texas A&M University in 2001. n addition, he developed an original model of the role of the strong magnetic field effect on plasma functioning, which he believes could make the production of useful energy from aneutronic fusion more feasible.

He has presented this approach to fusion at several scientific conferences including (in the past five years) the IEEE International Conference on Plasma Science, 2002, the American Physical Society, 2003, and the XI Latin American Workshop on Plasma Physics, 2005. In 2006 he accepted an invitation, offered at the initiative of fellow Big Bang critic and MOND enthusiast Riccardo Scarpa, to be a Visiting Scientist at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. Lerner is also a prolific general science writer, who estimates about 600 articles published, has received several journalism awards from the Aviation Space Writers Association from 1984 to 1993, and holds a 1993 US patent for a "Method for desalination and fresh water recovery".

Reception of Lerner's ideas

The POV and accuracy of portions of this article are questioned.

An editor with ulterior motives or a skeptic that has deviated from objectivity may have unblanaced this article. Please see the relevant discussion on the talk page.

Lerner received some notoriety with the publishing of his popular-level book in 1991, which disputed Big Bang cosmology. James Van Allen, a space scientist who discovered the Earth's Van Allen belts, mailed a promotional statement to the publisher for inclusion on the back cover of the hardback edition of The Big Bang Never Happened that stated in its entirety:

"Eric J. Lerner gives both a provocative critique of the Big Bang and a stimulating account of the insightful and creative, although controversial, cosmology of Nobel Laureate Hannes Alfven."

However, in general Lerner's ideas have not been acknowledged or adopted by cosmologists or astronomers. The general response of cosmologists to Lerner's dispute with standard cosmology is negative. For example, Paul Davies reviewed his book for the New York Times and panned it. The newspaper published a rebuttal by Lerner which was itself criticized by Arno A. Penzias, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize for Physics:

"The sizes of the vast ribbons of galaxies that Eric J. Lerner refers to come straight out of the Big Bang model itself.... Contrary to Mr. Lerner's claim, therefore, the 'simple mathematics' he cites rests upon, rather than contradicts the Big Bang model."

Subsequent to this, Paul Davies responded to Lerner's criticism of his review:

'"It seems to me that the theory proposed by Mr. Lerner has serious problems in relation to thermodynamics. This is merely my professional opinion, for what it is worth. Others can judge for themselves.... I accept that Mr. Lerner's book reports work that is largely due to Hannes Alfven, but this does not render it immune from criticism."

Victor J. Stenger, Univ. of Hawaii Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy, criticized Lerner's book in a 1992 edition of the popular magazine, Skeptical Inquirer. Stenger writes,

"The big bang may be wrong, but Lerner can't seriously expect to prove it in a popular book."


"Lerner uses the kinds of arguments one often hears in public discourse on science, but rarely among professional scientists themselves. For example, he argues that plasma cosmology is in closer agreement with everyday observation than Big Bang cosmology, and hence is the more sensible. A look through a telescope reveals spirals and other structures similar to those observed in the plasma laboratory, and as cosmologist Rocky Kolb has remarked, in your bathroom toilet as well. Following Lerner's line of reasoning, we would conclude, as people once did, that the earth is flat, that the sun goes around the earth, and that species are immutable."

Partial list of papers and articles

Publications in IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science'
Industrial Physicist articles
Popular level articles and opinion pieces

External articles and references


Co-written by, and including contributions by Eric Lerner. This film's first few lines claim that a "growing number" of astronomers doubt the Big Bang -- a charge that is unverified.
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