A major feature of Applied Mathematics Conferences has been the (postgraduate) student presentations with the best, as judged by a panel of academic participants, being awarded the T.M. Cherry Prize consisting of money and a certificate. At the 31st AMC (held in Busselton, W.A.) the students decided to ``reintroduce'' the Cherry Ripe Prize, for the best presentation by an established academic, as judged by a panel of students. (The students were unaware that the first Cherry Ripe Prize, according to the memories of older conference delegates, was awarded during AMC70, at Lorne, for the worst presentation by an established academic.) This presentation was made at the conference dinner following the more illustrious student prize. Unlike the student prize, which is presented to the winner by the chair of the judging panel (after that panel has been introduced at the dinner) only one member of the student panel came forward to present the Cherry Ripe Prize, David Marlow. As with the student prize, David read out the panel's short list of high recommendations: Steve Barry, Natasha Boland, Neville de Mestre, Larry Forbes, Brian Gray and Andy Coyle and then named the winner, Natasha Boland, who accepted her Cherry Ripe. He stated that the other members of the judging panel wished to remain anonymous, to protect their prospective careers.
In introducing the prize David told diners why such a prize was needed. The manner in which he did this provided great entertainment for all diners....
Once upon a time, in a country town not too far away, the good people of mathematics land saw fit to encourage the students of mathematics land to give high quality talks by instigating a prize for the best talk by a student. This initiative was met with approval all around, and the students rejoiced at the prospect of being recognized for their contributions. The prestige of winning! the benefits of including that on your resume! The money! Yes ... it was good. The students were indeed happy, and went about the business of presenting good talks, to the benefit of all in mathematics land.
And this went on for many years, and for many years all was well ... but, as time went on, things started to change.
It came to pass that the annual conference of mathematics land grew in popularity. And as its popularity grew, the numbers grew, as did the number of students. And as the numbers grew, so did the competition. And as the competition became more intense, so did the pressure.
By now the joy of the competition had disappeared, to be replaced by an obsession with perfection. Students spent hours, days, weeks, months in preparation; tearing their hair out as they tried to string something together; fretting about the quality of the overheads - was the writing too small? Was it too big? Would I stay within the time limits? Have I got too much maths ... or too little? Have I got enough diagrams? Have I got enough colour photographs? Have I got enough good jokes? One little slip, and the prize would be lost. But to win ... win it for yourself! Win for your supervisor! Win for your university! Win for your country! The prestige! The honour! But oh, the pressure! And then, having arrived at the conference, waiting for their talk to start, doing trial runs ... the nerves would build, and then, they would be out there - up the front - preparing to talk ... and then it would hit them.
Somewhere out there, aside from their peers and colleagues ... somewhere out there would be the judges. And the students would scan the audience, trying to pinpoint them. And they would know that the whole time, throughout their talk, they would be watching. Watching their every move. Waiting to pounce. Ready to jump at their every idiosyncrasy that worked against them. Was the hair out of place? Were the shoes polished? Ready to pounce on them if they spoke too fast, or ... if ... they ... spoke ... too ... slowly, or if they stut-st-stuttered. Ready to attack if the overheads were too small, or if the time limit was exceeded, or if there was too much maths or not enough, or if there weren't any diagrams or colour photos or if the jokes weren't funny. Or, even worse, the judges would be looking elsewhere, not paying attention while they tried, in vain, to get it back. Or, worst of all they would be asleep, either in the corner, or right up the front, having completely lost interest. The prize would certainly be lost. Oh the pressure! And then, when the talk was over ... the questions! What were the judges going to ask them? The embarrassment of being made to look stupid in front of the entire mathematics community! In front of all their peers and colleagues ... and prospective employers! Even the ones who were asleep managed to rise from their slumber to ask an incisive killer question. Having your work interrogated and turned into a joke in front of everyone! Was it all worth it?!!
Soon, the pressure got too much. Soon, the inevitable happened. The bubble burst. The dam broke. The students revolted. They had had enough of the pressure and the so-called ``joy of competition''.
The students met. Ideas were put forward. One alternative was for a students-only conference, where they could relax, away from the judgemental eyes of those who could hold their entire careers in the balance. Some brutal, yet very imaginative suggestions were put forth about punishing those who would judge them, and these were initially met with great glee and mirth by most of the students. But, these ideas were quite obviously born out of revenge and anger, and thankfully the voices of the wiser heads amongst them spoke up and encouraged the students that there were other ways. These wiser heads came up with an idea that would restore the student prize to its rightful place of high honour, yet would relieve the pressure on their fellow students, and most importantly, restore peace in mathematics land.
And their idea was this - the students would award a prize of their own. The prize would be awarded - by the students - for the best talk by a non-student. And the students thought that the idea was good.
Now the students could be the judges. Now they could sit there watching, waiting, with the power in their own hands of, with one stroke of the pen, discounting someone's talk to the scrapheap. Now they could pounce on the quality of the overheads. Now they could criticize the amount of or lack of maths. Now they could roll with laughter at the attempted joke-telling skills of those on whom they were sitting judgement.
But no. It was so much more than this, the wiser heads said. This is not to be done in revenge, they explained. This was to be done to encourage those who were no longer of their own number to give good talks too. This was to remind them of the fact, that they too were students once, competing for this prize, and that they too should continue the standards of excellence that they achieved when competing for this prize, for the good of all in mathematics land. That they should make sure that their overheads were legible and of good quality. That they should speak well, and speak to those in the audience. That they should make the talks interesting and enjoyable. That they should make the talks easily understandable, remembering that many in the audience are complete novices in their field, as they themselves once were. And that the jokes they tell should be funny. This should be done, the wiser heads explained, so that all in mathematics land would benefit from hearing everyone give good talks, to the overall benefit and harmony of those in mathematics land.
Now only one thing was missing. The name of the prize. And so it was chosen. A name that would be a gentle pun on the name of the prize for which the students competed. A name that would be a less gentle pun on the age difference between the participants and their student judges. And a name that would reflect the overall flavour of the conference - its healthy internal mix, surrounded by bounteous riches.
The chosen name was The Cherry Ripe Prize .
And it came to pass that the Inaugural Cherry Ripe Prize was awarded at the 31st AMC in Busselton, to the joy of all present; students and non-students alike. The students were reconciled to the rest of the flock, peace was restored, and all in mathematics land lived happily ever after.