Vietnam Installs Innovative ‘Rice ATMs’ to Give Food to Local Residents

A "rice ATM" in Hanoi, Vietnam.
A "rice ATM" in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Linh Pham/Getty Images

Residents of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, are lining up on bright orange tiles—spaced 6 feet away from each other—to wait their turn at the “rice ATM,” a silo that dispenses uncooked white rice through a tube.

Travel + Leisure reports that the innovative machine was created by Vietnamese technology businessman Hoang Tuan Anh as a way to give citizens access to free food while they’re out of work. Vietnam, which has about 270 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (as of April 17), launched a 15-day period of nationwide isolation on March 31, causing many small businesses to close their doors and many workers to find themselves temporarily without a source of income. According to Reuters, occupations of those waiting in line at the rice ATM range from street vendors to housekeepers.

Nguyen Thi Ly, a 34-year-old mother of three whose husband just lost his job, told Reuters the service provides enough rice to feed her family for a day. Each recipient can fill their bag with up to 1.5 kilograms (about 3.3 pounds) of rice.

“I read about this rice ATM on the internet. I came to check it out, and couldn’t believe it came out for real,” she told Reuters. “I really hope the sponsors would keep doing this until the end of the pandemic.”

It’s not clear how long the rice ATM in Ho Chi Minh City will continue operating, but another one in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, will stay open until the end of April or whenever it runs out of rice. Machines have been installed in other large cities like Hue and Danang, too.

Wondering how to help out in your own community during the coronavirus pandemic? Here are 7 things you can do.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

11 Absurdly Awesome Inventions

Google Patents/Erin McCarthy
Google Patents/Erin McCarthy

They say necessity is the mother of invention, but some of these are making us think twice.

1. “Animal-trap”

Don't mess with this mousetrap.Google Patents

Mousetraps can be so anticlimactic, but this one, patented in 1882, goes off with a bang. The frame is designed to hold your favorite peashooter. When a rodent steps onto the treadle, a spring yanks on the trigger and sets off the firearm. The inventor, James Williams, suggested it would make a good burglar alarm.

2. “Flatulence Deodorizer”

Confidently cut the cheese with this 2001 invention, which masks the smell of your personal potpourri. A simple charcoal pad clings to the back of your underpants, stopping the aroma before it reaches your boss’s nose. Benjamin Franklin would be proud.

3. “Apparatus for preventing collisions of railway trains”

This contraption was meant to scare cattle off of train tracks.Google Patents

It’s like a scarecrow—but for trains. Patented in 1888, J. W. James’s invention features an electric dummy riding in front of the train. The dummy is “made to throw up both hands at each revolution of the wheel and strike the gong with a hammer for the purpose of frightening cattle from the track and to announce the approach of the train,” James wrote.

4. “Fresh-air breathing device and method”

Take a deep breath.Google Patents

Smoke inhalation causes most fire-related deaths. Knowing that, William Holmes found out how to keep you conscious while you wait for rescue—as long as you can handle having toilet breath. In 1981, Holmes patented a snorkel-like device that supplies fresh air from your sewer. Just feed the tube past your throne’s water trap. Although you won’t die from a lungful of smoke, you might get woozy after huffing all that sewer gas.

5. “Wearable device for feeding and observing birds”

The ultimate accessory for bird watchers.Google Patents

As long as you’re okay with hanging a few birdfeeders from your dome, you can get a front row seat to all the action. David Leslie patented the contraption in 1999. Apparently, it’s also handy for butterfly hunting.

6. “Graffiti prevention apparatus”

Henry Hunt called graffiti “an assault on the visual pleasures of man.” So in 1997, he patented a system [PDF] that could kill the career of any wannabe Banksy. When a vandal approaches a potential canvas, a sensor embedded in the wall activates a magnetic field to repel the paint. There was one issue, though: Spray paint isn’t magnetic.

7. “Motorcycle Safety Apparel”

Dismayed by how dangerous motorcycle crashes can be, Dan Kincheloe patented an inflatable safety suit in 1987. Basically an airbag for your body, the suit has an “umbilical cord” that connects to a supply of compressed gas. When a biker flies off, a shorter pull cord snaps that rapidly inflates the suit. Pro? It could save your life. Con? You’ll look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

8. “Process for the utilization of ruminant animal methane emissions”

This contraption collects cow emissions.Google Patents

Forget windmills and solar panels. Harness the beautiful power of cows! Ruminant animals—which have four stomachs—account for 20 percent of the world’s methane emissions. (Most of that methane doesn’t come from their behinds, actually. They exhale and burp it out.) To harness all that lost gas, Markus Herrema patented a bovine gas collector in 2006. The gas is channeled to a chamber full of methane-loving microorganisims, which can be used later in “nutritional foodstuff or … other useful products, such as adhesive or cosmetics.”

9. “Improvement in Vehicles”

If cow power isn’t your thing, go to the dogs. In 1875, Parisian inventor Narcisse Hueet patented the “cynophere,” a dog-powered velocipede. Hueet wrote, “My invention contemplates the employment of dogs or other animals, working within a cage or cages, forming part of the wheels of the vehicle to be propelled.” 

10. “Apparatus for Facilitating the Birth of a Child by Centrifugal Force”

What can you say but "yikes"?Google Patents

If the thought of childbirth makes you dizzy, look away. This will make it worse. In 1965, George and Charlotte Blonsky patented a turntable that gives pregnant women an, um, extra push. The mother-to-be is strapped onto the turntable, which spins fast enough that G-forces help ease the baby out. A “pocket-shaped reception net” catches the newborn and triggers the machine to stop. (But in case that doesn’t work, there’s a handbrake!)

11. “Double Bicycle for looping the loop”

You can never have too much bike.Google Patents

“I heard you like bicycles, so I put a bicycle on a bicycle so you can stay upright while you go upside down.” Patented in 1905 by Kael Lange.