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HEARING This ’80s Song’s Bassline Can Break A Laptop

Playing audio on laptop

Song_about_summer/Shutterstock

Gadgets, especially phones and computers, could act erratically without the apparent damage. Devices often start behaving weirdly because of code shenanigans in updates or existing files, but on some occasions, any sudden or slow-paced harm to the hardware may also result in a computing machine to malfunction.A good specially craftedtext could be enough to accomplish the job, with respect to the bug.

In 2021, a Windows 10 vulnerability caused the machine to crash whenever a specific path was typed in to the Chrome search bar. Per year earlier, a noted leaker highlighted what sort of special mixture of Unicode characters used to type a so-called text bomb word would cause an iPhone to become unresponsive (via Twitter). In 2018, Apple fixed a vulnerability across its phone, tablet, computer, and smartwatch portfolio that could crash the devices simply by typing a particular character in the Telugu language, as detailed by Sophos. However, it isn’t always weird lines of code or busted components that trigger something panic.

Sometimes, it could simply be considered a vocal cue such as a popping melody or perhaps a guy shrieking right into a server traythat borks things on a computing device. Through the early 2000s era, Janet Jackson’s song Rhythm Nation”reportedlycrashed certain computers. Raymond Chen, a software engineer at Microsoft,highlighted the odd phenomenon in a post, revealing that the hit song would crash laptops which were armed with a particular class of hard disks in the OR WINDOWS 7 days.

It’s all in the resonance physics

These glitch was even assigned a serialized identity by Mitre Corporation’s publicly disclosed cybersecurity vulnerabilities dashboard, which implies that it wasn’t an urban myth. So, why was it that just a specific Janet Jackson song made life problematic for a specific class of hard disks? The blame could be pinned on the natural resonant frequency of an unspecified 5400 RPM hard disk drive provided by an unnamed manufacturer that has been utilized by multiple PC brands.

In physics, an item’s natural resonant frequency may be the innate frequency of a material of which it vibrates most vigorously. In this instance, it had “among the natural frequencies” for that specific 5400 RPM hard disk drive model that caused the storage device to malfunction, in accordance with Chen. Because of this, a laptop with the vulnerable hard disk drive inside would crash even though “Rhythm Nation” was playing on another machine nearby.

Here’s our first video from our new series with Raymond Chen, @ChenCravat.

We asked him to inform us concerning the mystery wherein some music would crash a laptop!!?? pic.twitter.com/BRgfsWEaaC

Windows Dev Docs (@WindowsDocs) August 12, 2022

This resonance effect will often have devastating effects. Take, for instance, the Broughton suspension bridge collapse in 1831, which reportedly crumbled as the vibration made by the marching of soldiers matched the natural resonance frequency of the bridge, causing it to shake vigorously until it eventually quit and collapsed (via SciHi). To resolve the problem with Janet Jackson’s track crashing hard disks, the maker of the vulnerable storage device “added a custom filter in the audio pipeline” to eliminate the frequencies that caused it to malfunction, Chen explained in his post.

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