The little magnets sure make the iPad's Smart Covers useful — but they could switch off pacemakers, too, if a new series of experiments is anything to go by.
When 14-year-old Gianna Chien set out on a science fair project earlier this year, she decided to test if the magnets in the iPad Smart Cover were strong enough to interfere with implanted defibrillators. Testing her hypothesis on 26 participants she found that 30 per cent of the time the magnets caused the devices to stop working. Since, she's started getting attention from medics — and soon she'll be reporting her findings to 8,000 doctors at a Heart Rhythm Society meeting in Denver.
They're certainly taking her research seriously. "The research offers a valuable warning for people with implanted defibrillators, which deliver an electric shock to restart a stopped heart," said John Day, head of heart-rhythm services at Intermountain Medical Centre in Murray, Utah. While the small magnets are relatively weak, they still seem to be able to interfere with the defibrillators. If a patient with a pacemaker were to fall asleep with an iPad Smart Cover on their chest, for instance, the device could be switched off. So be careful when you hand grandma your tablet. [Bloomberg]