Ph.D. neuroscience candidate Shannon Odell is back for the season finale of Your Brain on Blank, and this time she’s going for broke. It’s the much-requested kitten episode, and that’s something that can’t be taken lightly.

Shannon helps us to better understand domestic cats, or Felis silvestris if you’re fancy, by delving into how house cats came into existence. According to an article in Science in 2007, cats domesticated themselves when they discovered that living in tandem with humans was extremely beneficial to their survival. Why go out into the wilderness to hunt when you can have your food brought to you by unsuspecting humans?

Cats also outperform other cats in the critical metric of most popular household pet, only losing the war to freshwater fish — which is probably because a freshwater fish is one step up from a rock on the low-maintenance pet ladder.

But the real question that needs to be answered is this: What is it about kittens that makes us love them so much? Well, it’s most likely because of baby schema, the same mechanism that makes us love babies so much.

The human brain is wired to take care of infants — the livelihood of the species depends on it — and as a result, that wiring is very strong and easily triggered to avoid any false negatives. If your brain took a look at a baby, for instance, and classified it as “not a baby” because it was ugly, that would probably lead to a beautiful batch of short-lived humans. Instead, our brains classify a lot of things as babies, like kittens. These furbabies have trojan-horsed their way into our brains by looking similar to human babies. It’s not like they did it on purpose or anything, but they certainly benefit from the confusion.

Shannon also reveals some mind-blowing facts about kittens’ purring, their preferences for women over men, and their overall attitude towards people. (Spoiler: It’s actually pretty heartwarming.)

Check out the whole episode for about five minutes of the cutest cat footage you’re gonna see on Inverse, and a whole bunch of facts about the brain.


This episode was made possible only with the help of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and we’d like to highlight their Meow for Now campaign.

Every time a person would ask me about my heritage, I would simply shrug. My mom was born in the Italian seaside town of Ancona, while my dad hails from Quito — the mountainous capital of Ecuador. After falling in love on the east coast of the Italian peninsula, my parents settled years later in another swampier, peninsula — Florida. And that’s where yours truly came into the picture.

American biologist Roger Payne, Ph.D., caught the world’s ears with humpback whale songs in the early 1970s. His record of whale sounds — the first to capture the marine mammal’s complex compositions — went on to become a best-seller and ignited a movement to rescue their dwindling populations that continues into the present. Today, Payne’s recordings continue to be crucial to our understanding of whales. In a study released Thursday in Scientific Reports, they reveal a phenomenon that’s been going on for at least 36 years.

Native American scholars and genetic ancestry experts are not impressed with Senator Elizabeth Warren’s genetic test showing that she has a Native American ancestry. On Monday, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts released the test results as an apparent response to President Donald Trump’s repeated mockery over her purported Native American heritage, which has included his nicknaming her “Pocahontas.” While the test supports the claim that Warren has a Native American ancestor, critics say the DNA evidence is beside the point.

Ever since Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status, we’ve poured salt into its wounds by searching for actual planets even farther beyond it. Most vivid in the public’s minds is the compellingly named “Planet X,” a hypothetical object at the far reaches of our solar system that some scientists believe tugs on the orbits of the other planets within it. During a recent hunt for this hypothetical planet, scientists failed to discover Planet X itself — but found something else that supports its existence.

In this special feature, we have invited top astronomers to handpick the Hubble Space Telescope image that has the most scientific relevance to them. The images they’ve chosen aren’t always the colorful glory shots that populate the countless “best of” galleries around the internet, but rather their impact comes in the scientific insights they reveal.