Since the time it was posted on Thursday, a viral tweet showing an excited dog experiencing its first snowfall has garnered over 71,000 retweets and 228,000 likes. In the video, posted by now-internet-famous pet owner Jo Ellery, the dog frantically runs back and forth on the street as he experiences his first snowfall. This sight might resonate with many dog owners who have themselves watched in amazement as their pet spontaneously experiences a burst of energy and breaks into an uncontrollable sprint.

The dizzying act is actually something that animal experts refer to as the “zoomies,” or, more technically, “Frenetic Random Activity Periods.” According to animal behaviorist Marc Bekoff, author of the upcoming book Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do, what’s happening during these spells is pretty much exactly what it looks like: Your dog is super excited and uses running as a way to express it.

“It’s the same for humans, when you’re wired and you just go off and run around and pace back and forth,” Bekoff tells Inverse.

“The simple answer is, dogs enjoy running here and there frenetically. If they didn’t enjoy it, they wouldn’t do it.”

To both the amusement and worriment of owners, the zoomies seem to happen to dogs in a variety of situations, without rhyme or reason. It can happen when their owners get home, after going to the bathroom, while walking through sand or snow, or after a bath. Here’s how dog trainer Steven Lindsay described the behavior in the Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training, Procedures and Protocols:

Article continues below

The spectacle may cause first-time dog owners to suspect that their dog has momentarily lost its mind. Dogs exhibiting such behavior appear to be possessed by a torrent of spontaneous locomotor impulses. They rush about as though careening around obstacles or fleeing from a nonexistent pursuer closing in from behind. Occasionally, a dog may appear to scramble forward faster than its body can follow, creating a hunched-up appearance as it steers wildly along its frenetic path. As the playful release reaches a climax, the dog may display a wide open-mouthed smile, wedging its ears back.

Zogair the dog has the happy zoomies!

It might make sense that the zoomies are more prevalent in younger, more energetic dogs, but they don’t just happen to puppies, says Bekoff. Like humans of all ages, all dogs occasionally feel hyperactive — and often want to share it with others. In his years observing animal behavior, he’s noticed that dogs will get into these fits when they want to play but no one’s playing with them, or in an attempt to engage other dogs in play.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the zoomies, Bekoff says, and that’s because there hasn’t been much scientific research conducted in the field. No one has “systematically studied” zoomies to see how the activity changes by age, breed, or environment, he says, so most of what researchers know is based on observation and anecdotal evidence. And while the act seems to be a playful sign, there’s no clear-cut scientific research to prove that the zoomies are entirely positive.

Bekoff, however, has drawn his conclusions from zoomies he has observed in the wild — not from domesticated dogs. The same frenetic behavior occurs in wild coyotes and elk deer, he says, when “it’s safe to play.”

“The signal they’re staying in the wild is, ‘Hey, we’re free to do what we want, there’s no danger around so let’s do it while we can,’” Bekoff says.

Multiple articles online instruct owners on how to stop dogs that launch into the zoomies. Bekoff, however, advises that owners let their dogs run themselves out and not to discourage these very good boys from what’s just playful behavior.

“The vast majority of all zoomies I’ve ever seen are done in fun,” Bekoff says. “Let dogs be dogs and do zoomies to their heart’s content.”

On Monday, scientists revealed the first images of a human inside the world’s newest total body scanner, called EXPLORER. The name is fitting because this scanner really leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, tracking the way drugs and disease progress through every nook and cranny in the body.

Designed by biomedical engineering professor Simon Cherry, Ph.D., and biophysicist Ramsey Badawi, Ph.D. at University of California, Davis, this scanner produces images that look like a hybrid between a PET scan (which is often used to find tumors) and an X-ray, all in ghostly black and white. But what’s interesting about EXPLORER, which will be officially unveiled at the Radiological Society of North America meeting on November 24th, isn’t that it produces detailed images of tissues or bones. Cherry tells Inverse that it can also create 3D movies showing where certain drugs may end up in the body.

Touchdown confirmed! The Mars InSight Lander’s 205-day journey from Earth is complete.

A little before 3 p.m. on Monday, November 26, 2018, the scientific exploration device made by NASA safely landed on the red planet. The video above shows the emotional moment inside mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Califorrnia, when they received word that InSight handed touched down on Mars.

What do your car, phone, soda bottle, and shoes have in common? They’re all largely made from petroleum. This nonrenewable resource gets processed into a versatile set of chemicals called polymers — or more commonly, plastics. Over 5 billion gallons of oil each year are converted into plastics alone.

Polymers are behind many important inventions of the past several decades, like 3D printing. So-called “engineering plastics,” used in applications ranging from automotive to construction to furniture, have superior properties and can even help solve environmental problems. For instance, thanks to engineering plastics, vehicles are now lighter weight, so they get better fuel mileage. But as the number of uses rises, so does the demand for plastics. The world already produces over 300 million tons of plastic every year. The number could be six times that by 2050.

This December, Inverse is counting down the 25 most WTF moments in the world of science in 2018. Some are gross, some are amazing, and some are just, well, WTF. There are stories on kangaroos that got high on DMT, surprising research into fake news, a weird fact about early memories, a scientific study on booze, an explanation for why you’re sad after sex, and an appreciative ode to Neanderthals.