An embarrassment of Strange Angels ? Ars Electronica Golden Nica Awarded to Leonardo on its 50th

An Embarrassment of Strange Angels ? Ars Electronica Golden Nica Awarded to Leonardo on its 50th Anniversary

In this blog post we are delighted to announce a wonderful synchronicity

a) The Ars Electronica Golden Nica Award has been given to the Leonardo Organisations and Networks

The Golden Nica is an award to visionary pioneers  of new media art. Previous awards in this category have been given to Leonardo friends and colleagues Jasia Reichardt, Jeffrey Shaw and Roy Ascott: 

AND breaking news

b) Ridley Scott announces launch of a series of films on June 14 named “Strange Angel’ ,based on a book by George Pendle about a group of students and amateurs who invented rocketry that led to the first object to reach outer space , designed by the team led by Frank Malina –  a synchronicity ?- was the co founder of the Leonardo Network, and Journals recognised by Ars Electronica.

Yes it is a strange story- read further here  

Here first then details on the Nica

Art, Sciences and Technology – Leonardo! Golden Nica Award


And now more on the strange angel story !!

In case you missed it, Ridley Scott has just produced a new online TV series of films entitled “Strange Angel”. Ostensibly, the 10-part TV series is about a group of students with ideas that led to the launch of the first human made object to reach outer space, but also as with all enterprising student groups with enough dabbling in politics  magic and sex of the period. They unexpectedly exploded home-made rockets on campus and pasadena hillsides, but all for a laudable purpose: to win the race against the Nazi Germans (Wernher von Braun) and their rockets (V-2) and help win WWII for the Allies.


As glamorous as the TV-series may be, more mundane was the simple reality, which is easily told: One day in 1936 three young men appeared in the office of a renowned CalTech aeronautics professor named Theodore von Karman. They came with an unusual proposal: Can or will you help us build a space rocket to go to the moon. It may come as a shock to some of today’s younger generation to be reminded that eighty-two years ago, rockets existed largely in the individual imagination or in science fiction. These three young men – Frank J. Malina, John W. Parsons and Edward S. Forman – the latter two were not even CalTech students – had already been turned down at all the other CalTech departments were they had asked for assistance. But von Karman agreed to let these three young persons use his Aeronautics Laboratory shop during off-hours. Von Karman was immediately captivated not only by their enthusiasm and earnestness, but also because of their unusually strong science and engineering backgrounds.


And the results of this collaboration into the exploration of space were duly impressive. Because of this team’s initiative (Malina, Parsons, Forman, later joined by Amo Smith and Hsue-Shen Tsien) the stage was set for the exploration of space at CalTech. One of the results was the WAC-Corporal sounding rocket, which in 1945 reached successfully altitudes beyond the boundary with outer space. Malina went on to co-found Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


So much for the historical reality ( lets not get into discussing what is reality, sometimes reality is stranger than fiction). Now back to Ridley Scott’s TV film-series Strange Angel

The central character in the 10-part series Strange Angel, loosely based on the book of the same name by George Pendle ( ) is Jack Whiteside Parsons._

Back at CalTech in the Thirties, Jack was one of Frank Malina’s best friends. As I mentioned above, Malina as a student and Parsons as an amateur, along with the others,  led to the founding of a group that patented novel rocket fuels, launched a start-up company, Aerojet General, which led to the founding of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory that today is leading the exploration of the planets in our solar system. My father then started the Leonardo Journal in 1968 and organisations whose 50th anniversary we celebrate today.

More in the days to come , watch this space and also: 

Roger Malina

PS I knew my father well, He was a confirmed atheist and positivist. He had no truck for  weird magic or sexual rituals. As a student he attended all kind of parties as i did in 1968 at MIT. But he did know that it was the cultural imaginary that drove scientists and engineers to discover and invent new ideas, which led to the changing of history . In my father’s case he credits Jule Verne with his book from the earth to the moon for inspiring him as a teenager in the small rural town of Brenham, Texas. When discussing Jack Parsons death he used to say that he had developed a tolerance for strange people, often as we now say in the leonardo 50th anniversary ” good ideas don’t take sides’. Jack Parsons had a lot of good ideas, and if its hadn’t been for his strange habits he would have had many more rather than killing himself in his kitchen.