The Onion Prize

The Onion Prize logo

The Guy Foundation's 2023 Onion Prize has been awarded to Dr Nathan Babcock, who most recently completed a postdoctoral research appointment in the Quantum Biology Laboratory at Howard University. Dr Babcock's winning entry reinterpreted Gurwitsch's original discovery through the lens of subsequent advances in quantum theory, in particular open quantum systems theory. Dr Babcock is planning to submit the paper for publication.

2023 Prize: In celebration of Gurwitsch’s first finding of non-chemical communication

2023 marks the centenary of the scientist Alexander Gurwitsch’s seminal experiment to demonstrate the presence of non-chemical communication in onion roots. Subsequently hypothesised to be electromagnetic radiation, this came to be known as biophotons. Gurwitsch’s original results proved difficult to recreate until the invention of more sensitive photon detectors.

To celebrate this centenary, The Guy Foundation is sponsoring a competition to reward the best, or most novel or imaginative, replication / reinterpretation of Gurwitsch’s original experiment. The winner will be awarded The Guy Foundation Onion Prize.

Please help us to spread the word by circulating details of the competition to your contacts and networks. We are particularly encouraging entries from early career researchers, who might benefit from both the prize and publicity.

The competition is open to researchers around the world, at any career stage. The winner will be awarded The Guy Foundation Onion Prize, which includes the opportunity to present their work at a Guy Foundation meeting, an article in The Guy Foundation Newsletter and a cash prize of US$5,000.

The closing date for entries is Gurwitsch’s birthday, 26 September, 2023.

Details on how to enter, and the competition rules, are below.

About Alexander Gurwitsch’s seminal experiments

In 1923, Alexander Gurwitsch hypothesised that biological systems might communicate through the use of electromagnetic radiation. As proof of this he performed an experiment to investigate how mitotic processes in the roots of one onion might stimulate mitosis in an adjacent onion root. The results of this famous experiment suggested that some form of non-chemical communication was taking place between the adjacent roots, the emission of which was subsequently called biophotonic radiation. However, due to the ultraweak nature of the radiation, this ‘mitogenetic effect’ was difficult to confirm. Almost a century later, the role of biophotons in biological systems remains an underdeveloped field of research, falling behind the advances made in understanding how genes influence and control biological organisms. Advances in photonic detection technologies and the developing field of quantum biology, however, have made new inroads in contributing to research on ultraweak emissions from biological tissue.

The experiment is described in this review: Frontiers | Revisiting the mitogenetic effect of ultra-weak photon emission (frontiersin.org)

Competition details and how to enter

  1. The competition is open to any researcher worldwide at any career stage.
  2. Entries should comprise a written write-up of a replication or reinterpretation of Gurwitsch’s original experiment. The experiment is described in this review: Frontiers | Revisiting the mitogenetic effect of ultra-weak photon emission (frontiersin.org)

  1. Competition entries should be submitted to the Programme Director by email n.copping@theguyfoundation.org together with your name, role title, affiliation, postal address, email address and telephone number.
  2. The deadline for entries was 12noon BST on Tuesday 26 September, 2023. Late entries will not be considered. The deadline for the 2023 competition has now passed.
  3. Entries will be judged according to whether they are the best, or most novel or imaginative, replication / reinterpretation of Gurwitsch’s original experiment. Aspects such as the quality of the research method, quality of the presentation of the results, and creativity/originality in approach will be considered. Negative results would be of interest as well as positive results. The write-up should be of publication quality.
  4. The Guy Foundation Board of Trustees will decide on the winner. Their decision will be final. If entries were deemed to be of insufficient quality the prize the Trustees would be under no obligation to award the prize.
  5. Certain qualifying criteria need to be met for eligibility for the cash prize. For example, any person closely affiliated with The Guy Foundation (ie has a role with, or receives research funding, from the Foundation) is eligible to enter the competition, however if they won they would not receive the cash element of the prize.