The Harlem Shake - NASA Style
March 13, 2013

The Harlem Shake – NASA Style

The fun-loving crew at NASA, the same bunch that brought you Mohawk Guy, have joined in the latest Internet craze with their very own Harlem Shake video. Once again, with bad dance moves and crazy costumes, the NASA bunch has proven they are willing to try just about anything to catch the public’s attention, with good cause. They are doing some incredible science, and really cool stuff, around the country and out in space. The public should be paying attention.

The Harlem Shake is the latest Internet meme making the rounds. I guess I should start by defining a few things like “meme,” “latest,” and “Harlem Shake.”

Being old myself, I had to look up a good definition for a meme, and my favorite is on (where I go to define all the slang my 19 year old throws at me). “A short phrase, picture, or combination of the two that gets repeated in message boards and Barrens chat for far, far longer than anything ever ought to be.” HAH! Picture the 5,280 Chuck Norris jokes (“Chuck Norris doesn’t flush the toilet, he scares the shit out of it!”) or the poor Grumpy Cat photos floating around everywhere. That’s a meme.

I said I had to define “latest” because the Harlem Shake seems to be fairly new to the internet viral craze machine, but it was actually invented in Harlem, New York, in 1981. Originally given the name “the albee” for its inventor, Al B (oooo we are going for a Capt. Obvious award here, right?), the dance was originally all about shaking your shoulders. Al B described it as “a drunken shake… that the mummies in ancient Egypt would do.”

The current dance craze making its way around the internet is not quite the Harlem Shake, but since the first viral video in February 2013 was named “Harlem Shake” the new moves have stuck. Most Shake videos start out with one person, usually masked, dancing away frantically while everyone else ignores them. The bass notes drop in, and the rest of the cast joins in the dancing, costume and all. There are some amazingly bad examples of this on YouTube. Here are some of my “favorites.”

The original Army edition – I can see the drunken Mummy idea here.

Can you Harlem Shake on a Segeway? Hell yes.

If you really want to learn, here is a video that predates the craze, teaching you how to do the real hip-hop moves.

Everyone has been getting in on the act, from naked Irish athletes to high school students, and that is where the trouble begins. If you Google “Harlem Shake high school” you get about 42,000 hits and most of them concern high school students making suggestive videos and being suspended from school for it. One story, of 13 students in Brownsville, PA, who filmed their video in class even has the ACLU involved trying to get the student suspensions revoked. Students are not the only ones in trouble, however. Apparently, according to, a teacher in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv has lost his job after doing the Harlem Shake with his students in the schoolyard.

The NASA Harlem Shake video is funny and cute and shows us, once again, that science can be fun… but maybe Urban Dictionary called it when they said a meme was something that had stuck around way too long.

Image Credit: NASA Wallops

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