Having been put on the spot by a reporter with an off-the-cuff question on quantum computing, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau answered by giving a basic rundown of what it is. Trudeau was addressing a press conference at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, on April 15, announcing additional funding for their continued scientific work. He then took questions from the press, which resulted in something rather astounding.
One of the reporters jokingly opened his question with, “I was going to ask you about quantum computing, but… haha…” He then proceeded to ask Trudeau about Canada’s efforts in fighting ISIS. With the politician being present in a premier scientific institution, perhaps there was an expectation that Trudeau may not know much about the subject. However, he responded by taking upon the challenge, which was met with immediate applause.
The former teacher-turned-politician then gave a basic explanation of what quantum computing is and why it’s important in the future of computing. Trudeau mostly focused on how current computer technology are limited in using a binary system with zeroes and ones to store information, while a quantum computer would allow more possibilities due to quantum states, thus being able to store more complex information in a much smaller space.
The fairly comprehensive explanation—which has gone viral—as well as his announcement and mere presence in the institute, shows that Trudeau has an interest and appreciation for science and technology, as well as at least a cursory knowledge in both quantum mechanics and computing.
Trudeau was there primarily to announce a federal funding of $50 million to the Perimeter Institute, which is to be spread over five years. The physicists in the institute, as well as the Canadian scientific establishment, most likely were assured a vote of confidence by the nation’s head of state in this event.
Trudeau was elected into office during the 2015 Canadian Federal Election, which took place on October 19, 2015. He defeated the incumbent prime minister, conservative Stephen Harper—who had been in office for nine and a half years—and led the liberals to win majority with the second best electoral performance in Canadian history. The election was an intensely hot issue in Canada at the time due to the unpopularity of the then-conservative majority, thus Trudeau and the liberals’ victory created much buzz.
Justin Trudeau is the eldest son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, making him the first child of a prime minister to assume the post. He is also the second youngest Canadian prime minister, at 44 years old; Joe Clark took office in 1979 at 39 years old, one day shy of his birthday. The young Trudeau has been continually underestimated by detractors and his political opponents due to being rather different from most statesmen, as well as the impression of him being lesser compared to his father.
Aside from cutting a dashing figure with his good looks, Trudeau is also known to be a bit of a renaissance man, which indeed helps with his public image. He earned a BA in English literature from McGill University, then became a teacher in Vancouver before studying engineering. He also started a master’s degree in environmental geography, but suspended the program to start his political career. Trudeau had become more involved with the Liberal Party in the 2000s after the death of his father.
Trudeau also acted in a TV miniseries called The Great War in 2007. He is also known for his physical fitness, being an avid boxing and yoga enthusiast—even going as far as taking part in a charity boxing match for cancer research on March 31, 2012. This unconventional list of credentials and accomplishments has led many to think of Trudeau as more flash over substance—an assessment that still persists to this day.
[Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]