"Are you sitting comfortably? No? Well that's hardly surprising with an awkward problem like that. Anyway I'll begin, because the sooner you know about the danger poised by these lurking menaces the better," writes special space correspondent "Gas Giant".

Highlights from the "Planetary Defense" conference:

Opening comments from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher: "I'm really sorry Bruce Willis isn't here." NASA's "three most important things to know about 'mother nature's' weapons of mass destruction": 1) Find them early; 2) Find them early; and 3) Find them early. Comments on the meaninglessness of statistics and probability of impact: "If a large asteroid hits you, you will immediately notice it." One of the options for destroying an incoming asteroid is dubbed "The Hollywood": "Why? Because in the true traditions of Tinseltown you build only one armed device, and pray for it to work!" The weakness of using history to prompt urgent action: "So when has this sort of thing happened? What's that?...65 million years ago?! OK...so we can probably defer it from this year's budget cycle."

Yuckspeak (series of 1,000,000)

Spaceborne near Earth object mitigation physics package = nuke

Demob happy

Departing thoughts from a soon-to-retire senior US Air Force "blue suiter". US Strategic Command in Omaha has taken over several roles from US Space Command, but don't try and ask them exactly what they're doing yet, they're still too busy trying to find the toilets! They used to say "Go to Omaha for good steak and a sleepy time." Now it's "Go to Omaha for good steak and world domination."

Wish you'd never asked?

Last week Typhoon test jockey Craig Penrice asked: "Just how many bushels of oxygen are there in a 200 litre bottle anyway?" According to Andrew Zucker, "200 litres is equal to 44 (UK) gallons, and with 8 gallons to the bushel, 200 litres is equivalent to 5.5 bushels. That would be equal to 1.05 barrels of oxygen, except a barrel is 42 US gallons, so it is actually 1.26 barrels." The short answer to the concerned F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme people worried about mix-ups between imperial and metric is this proves you always need more bottle when flying in the USA.

Chris Wyatt, not to be outdone, has done his own number crunching, and concludes that 200 litres = 5.675518 bushels or 1.729698 barrels. (That's enough bushels - Ed)

More junior jets

New suggestions for the "name that genre" question: Budgiejet - an appropriate name from ever-loyal Nephew Jim Johnstone, and PRAM (perfectly reasonable aeronautical machine) - the perfect acronym from inventive "babyjet" fan Roger Allingham-Mills.

Source: Flight International