PM’s Quantum Computing Lesson: 2 Secrets You Need to Know

Focus on science and technology (Modified from an image by insspirito/Pixabay/CC0)


“Trudeau shows off,” said one headline describing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brief explanation of how quantum computing works. “PM schools reporter,” said another. Last week, after a visit to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the web was abuzz with news of Trudeau’s “quantum leap.” A video of his brief lesson in the difference between ordinary binary computing and quantum computing, went viral. Ordinary Canadians like me were so impressed with our head of state that we were sharing the video on social media and using cool hashtags like #GoTrudeau.

Canadians are proud to have a Prime Minister who is a self-proclaimed geek. We’re thrilled that Justin Trudeau not only has an interest in science, but is funding it. It’s a huge relief after a decade of Stephen Harper, who muzzled our scientists and massively cut funding to important scientific projects in our country.

So why do people feel such a strong need to nay-say?




Quantum Computing Lesson or Publicity Stunt?

Since the story and video went viral, some people have suggested this wasn’t a matter of the prime minster revelling in science, but just a publicity stunt that he set up by prompting reporters to ask questions on the subject.

Prime Minister Trudeau did, in fact, mention he was looking forward to questions about quantum computing. But don’t believe everything you hear about it! Those who are critical of Trudeau would have you think he simply blurted this out before reporters were allowed to ask questions. The truth is that it was just part of a longer speech about the Canadian government’s commitment to encouraging and funding scientific research. This speech was made after the prime minister had spent time touring Perimeter and listening to the scientists there speak about the project they are working on.

Here’s the comment, in context: “You don’t have to be a geek like me to appreciate how important this work is. Although I have to tell you, when we get to the media questions later I’m really hoping people ask me how quantum computing works because I was excited to deepen my knowledge of that this morning.”

I was excited to deepen my knowledge…”

So the question may have been prompted. And I have no doubt that Trudeau enjoyed showing off for the media just a little bit.

But it sounds very much like Trudeau was just excited about the cool things he’d been hearing from the scientists that day. And it was not a script memorized from Wikipedia, any more than Trudeau his posing with a wedding party at their request was some kind of sexually promiscuous photobomb. There are just a handful of small-minded, big-mouthed naysayers who like to suggest our Prime Minister is some kind of ski bum media whore, and that he isn’t serious about the business of governing our country.

If you want to know what really happened between Trudeau and the reporters that day, watch the whole video. Forget the long-winded rant in which everything is taken out of context and spliced together to give the impression some over the hill racist windbag actually has something of value to say….



Media and Critics Overshadowing Good Work

What’s just as troubling as the publicity stunt accusations is the fact that both critics and the media are overshadowing some really important things that happened during the PM’s visit to the Perimeter Institute. Even those reporters who seem to think Trudeau’s explanation of the technology was cool – were they the folks in the front row who gave him a standing ovation? – are obscuring the real value behind the event.

  • An investment of $50 million over five years, so the Perimeter Institute can continue cutting edge research in theoretical physics
  • Looking at ways to improve transportation access to the Institute, which is located roughly 90 minutes from Toronto
  • The tour coincided with a special mentoring activity for young women interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
  • The Prime Minister was welcomed to Perimeter by Distinguished Visiting Research Chair Stephen Hawking – how cool is that?



This visit was about reminding Canadians that our government no longer seeks to restrict scientists and squeeze them out of their jobs. We have a new party in power, a new Prime Minister who both taught mathematics and studied engineering at the Université de Montréal’s École Polytechnique.

Science is again valued in our country, and our government is committed to ensuring that Canadian men and women will be able to pursue rewarding careers in the sciences. These things go far beyond a 30-second sound bite. These things can’t be erased because some people wanted to preserve the conservative status quo, and discovered the majority of Canada wasn’t interested in returning to the Dark Ages.

The Perimeter Institute visit was about raising awareness, and getting ordinary citizens interested in esoteric subjects like quantum computing. How many of us even know that term, let alone what it means? This stuff is the meat behind the Prime Minister’s playfulness. If people love him more for it, that’s just the gravy.



Featured Image Credit: Quantum computing is light years beyond binary technology by Gerd Altmann (aka geralt)/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

Banner Image Credit: Focus on science and technology in #cdnpoli, modified from work by Garik Barseghyan (aka insspirito)/Pixabay/CC0 1.0


11 thoughts on “PM’s Quantum Computing Lesson: 2 Secrets You Need to Know

  1. I am glad to know more about the new PM and was glad that he visited President Obama too. I think they are a good pair. I hope that we are able to elect a progressive president and congress this time so something can get done.

    1. I don’t know much about where things stand for your Congress this time around, but I do hope it will be one that can at least focus on getting things done for the good of the people. As a Canadian, it really shocks me to see how your Congress behaves.

      As far as the president is concerned, you won’t get progressive with Trump or Clinton. But I think Sanders would work well with Trudeau, and would serve the American people exceedingly well.

    1. Trudeau and his wife were a big hit at the White House when they visited for a state dinner. There are even people who have started an informal movement to have him run for US president!

  2. I have heard the name but didn’t really know much about your PM. Glad to hear he takes an interest in the sciences.

    1. We’re very lucky he does, after the fiasco for our scientists under the previous administration. PM Harper had deeply cut budgets for scientific research, including to facilities like science archives and our Canadian Space Agency (CSA.) He had also made it impossible for scientists working in government agencies to communicate with the public about important issues, and even threatened scientists with dismissal if they stepped out of line. It was considered a “war on science.”

  3. I have to admit I was impressed with PM Trudeau’s knowledge. Whether it was scripted or not is irrelevant, just delivering that monologue was enough…..

    1. I was really quite blown away, to be honest! And I’ve been watching him for over a decade now, so I wasn’t expecting to see anything that would surprise me nearly that much.

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