on August 20, 1999
Here's another sensational statement for you: There's no need to become hysterical when attacking or defending this book. I have some problems with Lerner's style and conclusions, but I think he successfully makes the point that the role of plasma physics in the formation of galaxies is deserving of further consideration. And his objections to the Big Bang are neither new nor shocking; with the exception of the age of the "Great Wall," they comprise the same problems that cosmologists have been working indefatigably to explain since the Big Bang theory gained mass acceptance. His heresy is simply in seeking outside the parameters of the Big Bang for a solution. One reviewer, who finds Lerner's conclusions--and perhaps even his search--unjustifiable, says that this book "deserves to be burned." There are several unflattering names for this approach to debate.
Apropos of reviewers, a couple of them recommend that prospective readers seek out the works of Nobel laureates, who "know what they're talking about." The "obscure Lerner" based his book on the work of Hannes Alfven, who won the Nobel prize in 1970 for his work in plasma physics and is considered the father of that discipline. (Alfven took another heretical position when he claimed that electrical currents could pass through space. Both his idea and the proofs he offered were met with howling derision, but oddly enough he turned out to be right!)
Another reviewer complains that Lerner offers no explanation for the uniformity of background microwave radiation. In fact, he offers an explanation based on a diffusion effect caused by the absorption and emission of microwaves by "black bodies." Right or wrong, it's in the book and can thus be subjected to rational inquiry.
Plasma cosmology may someday be proven to be dead wrong. Until then, it's an elegant, exciting theory that deserves open-minded discussion rather than the largely subliterate polemics--pro and con--afforded it in this forum of eBay amateurs. No one should feel so secure in the accuracy of a human conception as to be unwilling to at least read a dissenting viewpoint.
on June 13, 2001
I remember the (greatly simplified for school consumption) story of Kepler and his ellipses replacing the convoluted, yet working, system of epicycles used to explain retrograde and irregular motion in the skies.
I remember the argument being between the "big bang", "steady state" and "oscillating". Big Bang has been winning, but I have been watching in dismay over the years as correction after correction has been plugged into the theory and the equations. When you start having to tweak a fine balance between time frames of superluminal spatial expansion, "real" mass of the neutrino, unobserved-yet-needed for the theory supermassive one-dimensional cosmic strings in order to get just the right homogeneity and 'roughness' of the universe... it starts to feel like epicycles all over again.
Lerner's treatise is pretty nice in spots. I like the presentation of an alternative plasma cosmology. It's not 'extraordinary'; in fact, it's quite ordinary in many ways. Disappointing to the fanciful who want to strap on a Higgs field mass disintegrator in one hundred years, but, like evolution, there's much to be said for what ordinary processes can do, given an extraordinary amount of time to do it in.
I find Lerner's historicopolitical rants informative historically, but he obviously has a lot of big beefs to rant about, and it seemed a bit inappropriate to me to choose so much volume of book to rant in.
Still, it's enough to get the gears going. There are testable hypotheses in alternative cosmologies - once the Big Bang's infallibility complex wanes a bit, then perhaps we can have some proper discussions again, and who knows, perhaps the Big Bang theory will come out stronger for it, but I doubt very much that it will remain unchanged.
Look around the 'Net - there are other valid and interesting critiques of the Big Bang theory around, some with rather interesting implications, should they turn out to be true. The 'Compton Effect' is a *very* interesting possibility that could turn redshifts on their heads. The jury's still out on that for me, but that presents some testable predictions, and some interesting explanations of observations (quasars, for one) and it just boggles my mind to think that perhaps, just perhaps, the universe isn't flying apart quite as fast as it might seem.
I just hope the Big Bang theory stays together long enough for them to discover something nifty and new in the particle accelerators :)
Evidence has been accumulating that suggests The Big Bang DID happen. However that in no way diminishes Eric Lerner's insights here. In fact, this book makes recent discoveries all the more comprehensible and puts them in context. Every subject Lerner touches on, he clarifies by contrast with his own more rebel view.
Then again, Lerner might still be correct even in his basic premise that any signs of a "Big Bang" are just local effects in a universe that's much vaster than we yet understand.
In either case, this book poses the right sorts of questions and presents an alternative to prevailing ideas about how the universe was formed. Lerner elaborates on the theories of Hannes Alven and makes the stunning suggestion that electromagnetic effects might have been more instrumental than gravitational effects in shaping the galaxies. I had always taken it for granted that Newton's large-scale laws of mass and force were the key operators at work. But of course! There are other forces that might have played a role, even in the vacuum of interstellar space, which is really not such a vacuum after all. Lerner opened my mind to a whole new realm of possibility.
One section of his explanation of Alven's work on electromagnetic forces was a little opaque to me. But almost all the rest of this book was clearly written, providing lucid, remarkable insights into some of the great debates and theories of physics and astronomy in general.
For example, Lerner gave me one of the best insights into the value of chaos theory that I've run across. All I'd previously been able to garner about chaos theory was the idea that small effects can produce large, unpredictable consequences - something that seemed self-evident. But Lerner makes the significance of chaos theory clear, showing why it doesn't reduce to just household commonsense.
Then he provides some overall insight into how much of modern physics has become a matter of adjusting "the facts" to conform to the requirements of a priori equations. He demonstrates with specifics how physics has become a matter of building pyramids of mathematical abstraction, then positing reality to be what the highest point of mathematical construction concludes it must be. He suggests this process should be reversed to conform to the original practice of the scientific method. In this traditional method, observation informs the inputs to equations - not the other-way-around. So for example, he criticizes the way in which "dark matter" was considered to be a reality simply because its existence was demanded in order to make the latest round of equations balance.
Along the course of all these discussions, Lerner provides clear historical accounts of discoveries made from Archimedes to Einstein. So right or wrong about The Big Bang, he offers the reader an intelligent, highly accessible grounding in some of the fundamentals of physics and astronomy.
If you like informed, but controversial and contrarian scientific views - you might want to go on to read Elaine Morgan's work on evolution, starting with "The Descent of Woman." She believes that many of the traits that distinguish humans from other apes came about, not as adaptations to a masculine hunting lifestyle, but more as mother-child adaptations to a semi-aquatic habitat.
on January 22, 2002
Eric J. Lerner's "The Big Bang Never Happened" is a major work of scientific exposition. I recommend it highly as an introduction to the most important scientific and philosophical controversy of our century, dealing with the origin of our universe and coincidently, with the foundations and predictions of quantum theory. The author takes great pains to present the clearest descriptions that I have found of the theoretical difficulties inherent in the "Big Bang" creation hypothesis and of the lines of experimental evidence (at least up to 1990) that appear to negate the predictions of BB cosmology and which possibly reinforce an alternative theory, based on Hannes Alfven's Plasma Cosmology mechanisms. It will make the most sense for those who have a physics background and who have already read about BB in any of the plethora of books available, or in review articles on the level of Scientific American, for otherwise Lerner's catalog of discrepancies in predictions of the BB hypothesis and his discussions of conceptual errors may not be as striking. I would have preferred that the author had omitted his excursions into political, sociological and evolutionary parallels. These are not at the high intellectual level of his physical science, and detract from his main premise. The book on its own is strong as an objective study. I can empathize with the arbitrary rejection of some of his papers (and those of the Nobelist Alfven) by the established BB community. However the author's impression of dissenters as "victims" of a "priesthood", and the parallel to Galileo is a little too far fetched. All new ideas, especially revolutionary ones that require the abandonment of a whole body of physical theory developed by some of our best scientific minds, have to undergo severe scepticism, even including initial rejection. This is the essence of scientific inquiry. The proponents of the theory of plate tectonics recently suffered the same initial tortures. In view of the more recent published evidence by P. Marmet, J. Kierein, H.C. Arp, and others of the failings and inadequacies of the BB predictions, it appears that Lerner may yet be vindicated, and a new edition may be warranted. Until then, read this book and use the internet.
on November 17, 1999
First a few remarks on the below critiques of Mr. Lerner's book. Come on people please stop the invectives and hyperbole. Science should be a pursuit of the truth and any opposing hypothesis or argument should be greatly appreciated by the adherents to that specific viewpoint. Opposing views show weaknesses AND strengths in one's theory. I welcome this book it raises some very good questions and shows some of the deficiencies in the current big bang model that need to be addressed.
However, I have a different take on why this conjecture came about. I do not know Mr. Lerner personally, but we do have some mutual colleagues, some that support the plasma cosmology and others that do not. What is interesting is their reasons for this support seem not to come from a purely scientific zeal but rather a fear of the ontological implications of the current big bang theory. While physicists have usually been inoculated from the mind numbing and intellect robbing philosophy of naturalism that pervades most of the other scientific fields of study, I believe that this postulate was a direct concoction to adhere to presuppositions of naturalism. To back up this point one only needs to read Chapter Nine "Infinite in Time and Space" specifically the subsections labeled "Cosmology and Theology", Infinity and Deity", and "The Moment of Creation".
A scientist should bring no philosophical presuppositions to the table, when we do we tend to overlook or bypass data that disagrees with what we want to find. The big bang model as it is now, is incomplete, there are still many questions that need to be answered. However the majority of empirical and verifiable data still points towards a cataclysmic start of the universe from vacuity. This book did not show that the big bang is unattainable due to the paucity of the data, rather it shows that there are many unknowns and further work must be done. Just as there are many undiscovered properties about light, gravity, etc. et al.
If you read this book just to bolster you belief that the big bang could not have happened, I suggest that you sincerely look at why you hold that belief. What scares you about the big bang model? If you want it to bolster your philosophical stance against the unknown, buy it. If however, you hold to the big bang model as cosmological fact, buy this book also, it will challenge you and enlighten you to see that we don't have all the answer's yet.
on August 8, 2000
The Big Bang has gained a reputation of invincibility. It has become in the last 40 years a central pillar of scientific orthodoxy. It is the modern creation myth. The vehicle, however, is in constant need of shoring up and bailing out as its original intuitive simplicity is stoved in. Missing links, large and small, abound. Increasingly eccentric views of the architecture are pronounced to compensate for rips and gaps in the sciences needed to support it. New subatomic 'dimensions' are casually added, the noetic ether of superstrings, to accommodate an evermore insubstantial construct.
Dark matter, dark energy, dark flow, undefined and unconstrained by understood natural properties, are imposed to compensate for disequilibriums that have developed in the standard model. Time has lost its contingency as to 'direction' or spatial integrity. . Structural beams such as the primacy of light speed are tossed to notions of 'inflation' to account for the universe's 'lumpiness'. Uncertainty, entropy and 'consciousness' form an occult ethos of blind acceptance in respected scientific circles. All has become a magical superstructure understood within a closely held cryptography. Lerner's engaging critique is a colloquial history of the Big Bang, related to the societal and scientific cultures that spawned it. He argues the apprehension of the infinite universe, an anathema to the Big Bang, is directly related to an era's technological vigour.
The pervasive current in modern cosmology is that of its growing alienation from observable experiment. 'Experiments' conducted at the limits of conjectural horizons can produce only attributed results. Every 'finding' or anomaly must be insinuated into the grand master plan, geometrically complicating its conceptual foundation. By necessity, then, the test of validity becomes credulity, consonant with the scientist's rank in the priestly hierarchy, rather than by scientific method. A spectral edifice is the result, integrated into an understanding which relies on symbolic consistency rather than physical verification. Lerner notes that forces of electromagnetism and plasma physics provide a much more accessible explanation for the universe's large scale structure, using the pioneering theories of Hannes Alfven's filamentary universe. This takes the altogether reasonable route of explaining events of the past in terms of processes visible today. These, however, are so much less portentous and profound than a primal mythical singularity..
It is difficult to come up with one constructive industrial application that has been developed from contemporary cosmology beyond those based on the state of atomic science as at the end of Second World War. Its realms are now remote, exotic mathematics, far too refined and theologically pleasing than to be subjected to standards of empiricism or function. Unanchored by technological progress science loses its fundamental inspiration. One harkens back to Oswald Spengler's 'Decline of The West', where he predicted all sciences in late stage civilization would converge into number forms, abandon their proofs and utilities, and manifest boundless belief systems.
A vast academic bureaucracy, tenure, life works, Nobel prizes, research grants are now totally invested in the Big Bang. The current drift in the intellectual tides seems destined to continue along with public fascination. Lerner's contribution is in reasserting a healthy skepticism and proposing some realistic alternatives. Scientific paradigms have been fiercely defended throughout history, but have also been subjected to recurrent revolutions as their focus becomes more inward and aesthetic than useful.
on April 26, 2007
The Big Bang Never Happened is really three books in one: (1) A criticism of the Big Bang (2) A description of the "Plasma Universe", an alternative to the Big Bang (3) A summary of the history of science.
Some of the criticisms of the Big Bang are perhaps a little out of date now, but in general they still stand. One of the earlier reviews is quite wrong: black holes have not been "seen", cannot be seen, and will never be seen. They are inferred. Likewise, dark matter has not been "seen", etc etc. The argument is that the theory fails because hypothetical esoteric physics is required to bolster the theory.
Of course recent observations continue to be consistent with the Big Bang, but hardly a month goes by when astronomers are not surprised by new observations that require yet another ad hoc explanation.
Since The Big Bang Never Happened was first published in 1992, the Plasma Universe theory has continued to receive support among certain plasma physicists. Special issues of the IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science have published articles on the subject in Dec 1992, 2000 (on space weather), 2004, with a forthcoming issue in Aug 2007.
As Lerner points out in his book, the Plasma Universe is based on accepted tried and tested laboratory physics, in contrast to the esoteric theoretical physics of the Big Bang.
While the book is a little dated, recent books such as Don Scott's The Electric Sky bring the subject right up to date, and show that the criticisms still hold, and they Plasma Universe is as valid as ever.
Note that Lerner's criticism of the Big Bang does not automatically mean the the Plasma Universe is correct, but equally, recent observation claimed to support the Big Bang does not automatically mean that the Plasma Universe is incorrect. Sites such [...] is useful for more information.
I can thoroughly recommend this book to all, it will certainly make you think about the subject, rather than relying on the words of others.
on June 11, 1998
Eric Lerner's book about the Big Bang is one of the greatest I've ever seen. It shows that you don't have to believe in fatastic suppositions like the black holes, the white holes, the wormholes, dark matter, and cosmic strings to explain phenomena in the universe. You can use concepts that are more believable like electomagnetism and plasma to explain the microwave background, jets, supercluster complexes, etc. I really enjoyed this book!
on February 13, 2009
In the dark ages we live in the scientific truth is sometimes very difficult to trace. I came across this book by accident - thanks to searching amazon, really - and the way I see the world from then on has changed completely. What most disturbed me was the fact that this theory was never, ever explained to me when I went to high school or college. Instead, nowadays it appears that in a lot of American schools creationism is being taught instead of evolution of the species...
In this book, Eric Lerner explains all the flaws of the Big Bang-theory, and there are a lot of them. Personally, I never could get over the point that the Big Bang-theory requires that all mass in the universe was once condensed to a single point, so small it would be invisible for the human eye. This surely needs a divine intervention, and, well, I don't believe in God. So I always had a problem with this weird theory. The Big Bang-theory is also unable to explain the no homogeneity of the universe; we see no uniform expansion as a result from an explosion in a single point, but filaments instead. As if is this is not berserk enough, the Big Bang-theory also requires a lot of other "tricks", like *hypothetical* Higgs fields, the *never observed* disintegration of protons, the *undetectable* dark mass, *mysterious wormholes*, etc. This is no theory, this is a myth. Stephen Hawking is clear that in the end he goes after the "mind of God" : "If we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we would truly know the mind of God."
For people who are happy with the human mind we have, but are still curious to know where the universe came from, there is an alternative that doesn't require believing in God. It is called the plasma cosmology, first proposed by Nobel Prize winner Hannes Alfvèn. More than 99% of the universe is plasma : hot, ionized and electrical conductive gases. Lerner says : "In ordinary gases, electrons are bound to an atom and cannot move easily, but in a plasma the electrons are stripped off by intense heat, allowing them to flow freely. Extrapolating from the behavior of such plasma in the laboratory, plasma cosmologists envision a universe crisscrossed by vast electrical currents and powerful magnetic fields..." This theory considers the filaments we observe in the universe to be part of a universal "cosmic power grid". This theory parts from the principle that the universe has always existed, and that the galaxies as we see them have emerged out of the plasma.
Furthermore, plasma cosmology considers gravity as the natural force it really is : a weak force, that emerged later, once condensation of mass occurs. Here is another flaw of the Big Bang theory, which needs gravity as a primary force in the formation and evolution of universes, whereas plasma cosmology starts from the beginning, from the stronger electromechanical forces.
What is most appealing of the plasma cosmology is that it not only explains all phenomenons at cosmological scale with known laws of nature, but is also capable reproducing the formation and evolution of galaxies at laboratory scale. Lerner explains : "... the stately processes of the cosmos, ranging from auroras lasting hours to prominences lasting days to galaxies lasting billions of years, can all be modeled in the lab by rapid discharges lasting millionths of a second."
A must read for everybody unwilling to believe in myths.
on May 29, 2008
I would like to give this book five stars. In many ways this book deserves five stars... but I can't. There is a brewing controversy in modern physics: since before WWll the science of physics has become derailed by mathematicians. More interested in seeking evidence to prove their elegant formulas and theorems true, they have slowly become distanced from the methods of real science. Normally, evidence is established before one makes theories - mathematics was once used to explain the evidence, not to fabricate it. This has led to a modern speculative world of black holes, dark matter, string theory, and spooky relativistic things that go bump in the night, all of which ultimately are tautological mathematical entities formulated in such a way as to suspiciously dodge the very evidential proof on which science is normally based. This case Eric Lerner makes extremely well, and it is an argument that needs to be made. Yet, that appears not to be the main theme of the book.
The main underlying theme of the book is actually this: religion, particularly in the guise of the Catholic Church, has infected pure science and has undermined it philosophically from within with Platonic Idealism. To be sure, there is a story to be told here also, but Lerner is not the one to tell it for his understanding of philosophy is, frankly, ridiculous, and his understanding of the politics behind the Church vs. science feud is extremely ill informed.
Any beginning philosophy student would understand the ancient philosophical dilemma posed between the (moderate) Realist Aristotle and the Idealist Plato (the question being, is reality concrete or a figment of the mind), yet Lerner only mentions Aristotle in passing late in the book as a fellow evil Platonist!
Likewise, any beginning theology student would have been exposed to the Aristotle/Aquinas vs. Platonism controversy. It is in this debate that the Catholic Church staunchly defended its Aristotelian based theology against the new Platonists; Copernicus, Galileo, Bruno, and the Protestants. Yet, Lerner accuses the Church of the reverse. He insists that it is Catholic Platonic Idealism that infected science where if anything it was the other way around. It was modern science that began as an underground Platonic movement challenging the Realism of Aristotle and Ptolemy with mathematical harmonies. This is what began the Renaissance. Very difficult for the modern mind to wrap its collective mind around is the fact that the Catholic Church actually represented the Realists of the time period. It was Platonists such as Galileo who speculated on mathematical idealized views of the heavens that moved science forward, counter to to the accepted evidence. But as of late, modern physics has not had the luck of Galileo, its mathematical wagers have not been as fruitful. Not understanding these basic debates, Lerner consistently vilifies the wrong parties and creates a chain of events that is, well, just not tenable... so untenable that it begins to tarnish his credibility in general.
Thinking he's made his case, the author moves on to show how modern science has inherited occult underpinnings from philosophy and religion. Again, there is a case to be made here, however, it was science who had its early roots in alchemy and magic, not philosophy, and certainly not the Church. One could even argue that what we call Platonism today has nothing to do with philosophy of Plato. One could also better argue that the Church was historically intolerant towards such idealizations. Later in the book Lerner actually sides with the Catholic priest Teilhard de Chardin, the very one many modern occultists and Hermeticists invoke to gain credibility. Are we confused yet?
I agree with Lerner's assessment of the present state of affairs. He skillfully shows the problem with modern cosmology. Since mid-century, the Church and science have both charted a largely Platonic course guided by harmonic principles alone, unchecked by evidence. Both Church and science have disregarded one of knowledge's most sacred principles - save the evidence. Yet, modern advanced physics has produced nothing useful to society save the Nuclear Bomb, and that is even obviously disputable. Modern religion has also fallen into suspicion as it gradually disavows its own history to keep up with science in an effort to retain its credibility.
Today, all of our modern advancements and conveniences are largely based on a bygone physics (such as Tesla) to which science and our education system pays little homage. Instead, as Lerner aptly points out, science clings to an almost numerological gravitational based explanation of the Cosmos for no apparent reason. The problem is that under these present theories there is just not enough gravitational matter in the Universe to hold it together. This causing modern physics to invent occult mathematical entities and forces that can never be proved (or disproved). Education likewise conspires using pretty pictures and propaganda to evade criticism and hide the debate. This is the theme Lerner should have stuck to.