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Canadian prime minister schools journalist in how quantum computing works

As a journalist, I've learned never to assume anything. Don't assume a fact you've read comes from a reliable source. Don't assume that your readers know all the details of a complicated topic you're writing. And today I learned you shouldn't just assume that the leader of your country doesn't have a thorough knowledge of quantum computing.

One unsuspecting Canadian journalist was schooled in this topic today during a press conference at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. During a visit there, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that the institute would receive $50 million from the country's federal government over the next five years, according to the Huffington Post. He then fielded questions from the press, which is when one plucky journalist decided to delve into computer science.

Don't just assume that the leader of your country doesn't have a thorough knowledge of quantum computing

"I was going to ask you to explain quantum computing," he said, as the crowd chuckled with delight. The reporter then tried to move on, asking something serious about how Canada is dealing with terrorism, but Trudeau saw an opportunity to answer a way more fun question for a change. He launched into the explanation about computing, drawing applause from the crowd. "No, no, don't interrupt me," the prime minister said over the claps. "When you walk out of here, you will know more — no, some of you will know far less about quantum computing — but most of you."

Trudeau then explained how normal computers are binary systems. "There's either power going through a wire or not. It's either 1 or a 0," he explained. "What quantum states allow is for more complex information to be encoded into a single bit." I mean, that all sounds legit to me, but I'll be honest, my quantum computing knowledge could use some refreshing. I shouldn't just assume that Trudeau knows what he's talking about. So I consulted our very own Russell Brandom about how quantum computing works.

Yeah, so Trudeau knows his physics.