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Hank shares the week in science news, including the top 10 new species discovered in 2014, and the start of construction of the first fusion reactor. It's gonna be big!

Complete Top 10:
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Who's in the mood for some good news?

Yeah, when we talk about the changes taking place on planet Earth, we usually wind up talking about living things that are endangered or threatened or even extinct. But science is also bringing us discoveries of new kinds of life as well.

To remind us that we're still finding new organisms all over the planet even as others are disappearing, every year the International Institute For Species Exploration issues its top ten new species list.

On Thursday, it released its roster of the most interesting species discovered in 2014 and they range from the pesky, to the huge, to the adorable. I'm assuming you want to see the adorable, so lets start there.

Well we've told you before about the olinguito. It looks like a cross between a raccoon and a teddy bear, and it's the first mammal to be discovered in the Americas in 35 years.

It was only confirmed in the wild last summer, found in the cloud forests of Ecuador and Columbia. But it turns out that for the last century or so, some olinguitos have been mistakenly displayed in museums and even zoos as their larger relatives, olingos.

It was only after a DNA comparison and many reports of strange little olingos acting weird in zoos that biologists confirmed it was a whole different animal.

Plants, too, made this year's list but none can rival the size or the awesome name of the Kaweesak's dragon tree.

Hard to imagine it's gone overlooked for so long since the dragon tree grows up to 12 meters tall, and sports a crown 12 meters wide with leaves shaped like sword blades.

But it grows only on limestone hills in parts of Burma and Thailand and there are only about 2500 of them known to exist.

What's more biologists say that the dragon tree is endangered because the limestone it grows on is rapidly being extracted to be used for concrete.

And one surprise on the list is an organism that was found growing in probably one of the only places on Earth where we absolutely do not want anything but us to live.

The new bacterium known as Tersicoccus phoenicis was found growing in two different clean rooms where NASA's Phoenix lander is being assembled, one in Florida and the other in French Guyana. Yes, it was named after a Mars lander.

We make spacecraft in these hyper-sanitized clean rooms because we don't want to contaminate other worlds that we send them to. In this case, the Phoenix would be going to Mars, and we don't want to muck up the experiments that we could conduct to test for alien life.

But sure enough, these germs survived multiple rounds of chemical cleansers and UV sterilization, giving us new insights into the extreme environments that life can survive in.

You can check out the rest of the IISE's top 10 list in the links below, but now, let's get ready to talk about something really huge.

Last week work finally began on key components of the world's largest experimental fusion reactor. It's called ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, and it will weigh 23 thousand tons and take up about 60 soccer fields worth of space in southern France. By the time it's ready to go online in 2025 it will have more than 10 million parts, including 80 thousand kilometers of superconducting filaments to power its immense magnets.

This thing is gonna rival one of my favorite pieces of hardware, the large Hadron collider, for the title of most complicated machine ever built.

ITER's ultimate aim is to generate energy the same way the sun does, by fusing hydrogen atoms to make helium. It's gonna try to do that by using the magnetic field to contain super heated plasma in a donut shaped reactor called a tokamak.

So, sounds simple enough. Why does it need to weigh as much as three Eiffel towers?

Well the sun has got a lot going for it other than super high temperatures when it comes to causing fusion. It's got all that gravity. But we cannot replicate that gravity here on Earth so our plasma needs to be that much hotter in order to compensate.

The core of the sun is about 15 million degrees Celsius. The ITER Tokamak is going to be ten times hotter. Ten times hotter than the core of the sun!

And right now in the French riviera the magnets that are going to power this thing are being manufactured. They're made of massive loops of high grade stainless steel. Seven of these things stacked on top of each other will make one magnetic coil and will weigh about as much as a 747.

Many believe that fusion powers the world's best hope for clean and plentiful energy but others say that ITER will just end up costing 20 billion dollars, and being a neat-o science experiment, but not actually helping with the energy crisis.

Remind me to follow up on this in 11 years or so.

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