Boom! The universe burst into existence about 14 billion years ago. So argue proponents of the Big Bang, a widely accepted theory that the universe expanded from a very hot and dense state into, well, everything. But not everyone agrees: "Saying that the Big Bang theory is a well-confirmed theory is very much like saying that the emperor's clothes are beautiful," science writer Eric Lerner tells the Asia Times in the first of a four-part series. "It's something that lots of people agree on because ultimately their jobs and income depend on it. But it's not something that's backed up by scientific evidence." Among his arguments, Lerner says the universe "contains objects that are 10 times older" than the Big Bang and "light elements" are distributed in ways that contradict the theory.
Lerner supports so-called "plasma cosmology"—Hannes Alfvén's theory that the universe is eternal and formed largely by ionized gases and plasmas, not gravity and baryonic physics, as most experts argue today. Lerner also says large-scale plasmas can be harnessed to realize nuclear fusion as a safe energy source on Earth. But he's definitely an outlier: A 2019 Discover article described Lerner as having "a cult following" and a model that's "thoroughly inconsistent with the data," while an online essay picks apart Lerner's theory, saying it was "known to be incorrect in 1991" when he wrote his book The Big Bang Never Happened. But Lerner seems unfazed: "Wherever you look at what the Big Bang hypothesis predicts," he says, "you get a mass of contradictions." (Read more Big Bang stories.)