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Peculiar case of every iPhone malfunctioning in a hospital

Peculiar case of every iPhone malfunctioning in a hospital 1

A peculiar case was brought to notice by a Slashdot.org user going by the pseudonymn  dmoberhaus, who writes.

In one of the strangest system admin tales of all time, one IT guy details how a new MRI machine managed to disable every single iPhone, Apple watch and iPad in a medical facility while leaving the rest of the devices untouched.

The case was investigated by Eric Woolridge, a system admin at the hospital (Morris Hospital, Illinois, USA).

He wrote a detailed post on reddit, explaining what transpired.

The initial theory was that the malfunction was caused due to electromagnetic pulse emitted by the MRI machine, considering the MRI machines have massive, powerful, superconducting magnets.

However, the theory was quickly discarded as only iPhones and Apple products were affected, the Android phones seemed to be working fine.

Peculiar case of every iPhone malfunctioning in a hospital 2
A shattered iPhone Screen

Soon enough, the r/askscience were on the case, and discovered that the issue was caused by leaked helium.

When an MRI machine is setup, the magnets needs to be cooled using liquid helium. Approximately 120 litres of helium was leaked into the vents which spread through the hospital. 

Most electronic devices use what is know as a MEMS oscillator as an internal clock. And helium can wreak havoc on a MEMS oscillator.

Peculiar case of every iPhone malfunctioning in a hospital 3
MEMS Oscillator

But the question remained, why was only iPhones and Apple products affected?

As it turned out, Apple are the only ones to adopt MEMS silicon based clocks, while the traditionally other products use quartz based clock.

Sure enough, the iPhone’s product guide admits and warns against exposure to Helium.

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