The Selective Blackout: How an MRI Installation Disabled Only Apple Products


“In my experience as an IT professional, I’ve encountered a peculiar situation. A multi-practice facility of ours is installing a new MRI machine, and during its initial test, we were informed that all cellular phones ceased to function. Suspecting an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from the MRI, which could pose significant issues, we’re awaiting a response from the manufacturer. The facility serves as our disaster recovery site, prompting immediate concern from our management. Upon investigation, it was discovered that only iOS devices were affected, leaving iPads, iPhones, and Apple Watches inoperable, while other devices remained unaffected. It’s not surprising that a large superconducting electromagnet could cause such interference, but the specificity to Apple products is baffling. Currently, around 40 users are affected, and replacements are being arranged. The manufacturer suggests that helium, used in the MRI’s cooling system, may be responsible, but the logic behind its selective impact on Apple devices eludes me. Could you shed light on why an MRI installation would disable only iOS devices and not others, considering the use of liquid helium in the process?”


MRI machines generate powerful magnetic fields to produce detailed images of the body. These fields can potentially cause electromagnetic interference (EMI) with nearby electronic devices. However, an EMP, which could damage a wide range of electronics, is unlikely to be the culprit since only iOS devices were affected.

Helium’s Impact on Microelectronics:

The suggestion that helium is responsible for the malfunction of iOS devices is not as far-fetched as it might seem. Helium, used as a coolant in MRI machines due to its superconducting properties, can indeed affect microelectronics. When MRI machines are serviced or installed, helium can leak into the surrounding environment. Helium atoms are small enough to penetrate into the microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) used in many electronic devices, including smartphones and watches.

MEMS and iOS Devices:

MEMS components are found in a variety of devices for functions such as gyroscopes and accelerometers. Apple’s recent shift from traditional quartz-based clocks to MEMS silicon oscillators for timekeeping in their devices may have made them more susceptible to helium interference. Helium atoms can disrupt the operation of these MEMS components, leading to device malfunctions.

Why Only Apple Products?

It appears that the design and construction of Apple’s iOS devices make them particularly vulnerable to helium. While both Android and Apple devices use MEMS silicon, the specific architecture and materials used by Apple may be more sensitive to helium’s effects. This sensitivity, combined with the high concentration of helium released during the MRI installation, could explain why only iOS devices were disabled.

In conclusion, the disabling of iOS devices by an MRI machine’s installation is likely due to the unique susceptibility of Apple’s device design to helium exposure. This incident serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between the operation of sophisticated medical equipment and the functionality of the electronic devices we rely on daily. As technology continues to advance, understanding and mitigating such interactions will be crucial to prevent similar occurrences in the future..

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