Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Why a Helium Leak Disabled Every iPhone in a Medical Facility

Daniel Oberhaus:

The answer, it seems, is because Apple recently defected from traditional quartz-based clocks in its phones in favor of clocks that are also made of MEMS silicon. Given that clocks are the most critical device in any computer and are necessary to make the CPU function, their disruption with helium atoms is enough to crash the device.

In this case, the leaking helium from the MRI machine infiltrated the iPhones like a “tiny grain of sand” and caused the MEMS clocks to go haywire. This isn’t news to Apple, however, which explicitly mentions that “exposing iPhone to environments having high concentrations of industrial chemicals, including near evaporating liquified gasses such as helium, may damage or impair iPhone functionality” in the phone’s manual.

iFixit has a detailed explanation of how this all works over at its blog.

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