It's so obvious that the NY Times wishes New York City had pandas of its own, because they resorted to putting a HUGE photograph of DC's own Tai Shan on the front section of the Science Times today. And to justify this act, Natalie Angier wrote an article about "The Cute Factor," explaining what Gothamist has secretly suspected: People love round, fat things. Babies? Check. Pandas? Check. Baby pandas? Check. Extra zeros on a paycheck? Check. There's the obligatory mention of the Japanese "kawaii" phenomenon and scientists explaining why people like cute things.:

Observing that many Floridians have an enormous affection for the manatee, which looks like an overfertilized potato with a sock puppet's face, Roger L. Reep of the University of Florida said it shone by grace of contrast. "People live hectic lives, and they may be feeling overwhelmed, but then they watch this soft and slow-moving animal, this gentle giant, and they see it turn on its back to get its belly scratched," said Dr. Reep, author with Robert K. Bonde of "The Florida Manatee: Biology and Conservation."

"That's very endearing," said Dr. Reep. "So even though a manatee is 3 times your size and 20 times your weight, you want to get into the water beside it."

It's so true - Gothamist would love to swim with a manatee!

What is your favorite cute animal? And here are flickr photos tagged with kawaii, cute baby, and panda, plus some favorite sites that offer the cute: Cute Overload and pandafix.

Photograph by Tien Mao