Average Joe often hears on the TV about a rogue state threatening to launch nuclear weapons at his country, and he's naturally petrified about it. He's extremely interested in knowing about any potential missile launch as quickly as possible, and he's willing to spend moderate sums of money / travel / hire others / do generally anything that's not terribly unethical in order to learn about the launch as quickly as possible. Even if he's not the first person to learn about the launch, he's still incredibly devoted to learning about it as soon as possible, preferably before it becomes common knowledge.

You may assume anything you need about Joe, but to make things concrete, let's say that the rogue state is located on a peninsula halfway across the world and is blocked to tourists, not that Joe can speak the language anyhow.

Just how quickly can Joe learn about the launch, and how?

  • $\begingroup$ Try tapping in to his nation's military communications. They would be the first to know. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding.SE. Unfortunately, this question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, but about the action of a character within a world we know nothing about. Can you tell us more about the nature of your world, its rules, societies, technology, etc? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 0:29
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    $\begingroup$ Joe takes his moderate resources to move far away from the at-risk areas, then, reads about it in the newspaper. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH: Sure - this world is for all practical purposes, an exact copy of Earth as we know it. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 0:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Everyone_Else If it is an exact copy of Earth as we know it then the world has already been built. That is why this question is off topic for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 3:14

2 Answers 2


So, there isn't much time. If the North Korea-like country launched across the pacific, there would be one hour between launch and landing. The fastest Joe can learn about it without being granted clearance in the military is by learning the language of a neighboring country over which it would flying, and monitoring social media in the neighboring country.

In the real world, South Korea would be the first to detect the launch.

In September, Japanese media was able to warn citizens of a recent launch as the missile was passing over it. http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/14/asia/north-korea-missile-launch/index.html

If the neighboring country has a government alert system like Japan and if Joe could speak the language, Joe could sign up for it and be texted alerts.

One can assume that social media in South Korea-like country would blow up within a minute or two of the launch. However, modern journalism also works very fast in certain circumstances.

  • $\begingroup$ So far, all North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests have been announced to the general population hours or even days after the event, so learning korean and monitorizing its media wouldn't work at all. Only the military have the technology to detect missile launches, and they make announcements or issue warnings whenever they choose. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 7:55

Average Joe, without military information available, would most likely learn about the missile when he looked up and saw it coming towards him.

Much as the average person is only aware of aircraft movements as they pass overhead, the same would be true of Joe and the missile launch. He'd either hear about it on the news when the information became public, or see it with his own eyes.

His best bet is to join the military in the section responsible for detecting missile launches. Nothing unethical, just a career choice.


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