It was a joke of a question—"Morning, sir, I was going to ask you to explain quantum computing, but...."—but Canadian PM Justin Trudeau not only took the question, he knocked it out of the park on Friday, giving a concise, enthusiastic, and impromptu lesson on the subject in a video that's since gone viral, reports Reuters. "Very simply, normal computers work ... either there's power going through a wire or not. One or a zero. They're binary systems. What quantum states allow for is much more complex information to be encoded in a single bit."
Trudeau plowed through nervous laughter from his audience, before concluding as applause broke out: "Don't get me going on this, or we'll be here all day." The lesson lit up social media, and physicist Jon Butterworth notes in the Guardian that "the explanation he gives is clear, brief, and understandable to a non-specialist. It is the kind of thing any sufficiently engaged politician could pick up from a decent briefing, given expert help." But that's the problem, argues Jennifer Ouellette in a Gizmodo post headlined "Everyone Should Be Able to Explain Quantum Computing Like Justin Trudeau": "The swooning response also reveals just how little we expect of our political leaders when it comes to basic scientific literacy. And we expect even less from ourselves." (Trudeau has previously scored points with President Obama and the makeup of his Cabinet.)