The Domino Effect


In everyday use, the word domino refers to a chain of events that begins with one small trigger and then cascades from there. For example, if you knock over the first domino in a row of stacked dominoes, the rest will fall over, just like they would if you had set them up that way. But if you want to take the metaphor further, you can use it to explain any situation where one small event triggers many more, like a disease that spreads from person to person in a hospital or the growth of a forest fire that starts a firestorm. The word Domino has even inspired a popular political figure who used the domino effect during a press conference about his decision to offer aid to South Vietnam in an effort to stop the spread of Communism.

The most basic domino games involve a series of turns, where players lay domino pieces in a line with a number showing on both ends. The player who plays the highest end, which is usually marked with Arabic numerals, scores points. The first player to reach his or her goal wins the game.

While playing domino, a player’s goal is to form chains of dominoes that will cover the entire board before his or her opponent can do so. There are several different ways to achieve this goal, but the most common is to play two or more dominoes with the same number on both of their sides, forming a linked series that will begin falling as soon as the final piece in the chain is laid down.

Dominoes are generally flat thumb-sized rectangular blocks with a face that’s either blank or marked with a number of dots, called pips, from one to six. The number of pips on a domino determines its value and rank, and the sum of all the pips is often referred to as its weight or strength.

Stephen Morris, a physicist at the University of Toronto, says that when a domino is standing upright it has potential energy based on its position. But when you knock it over, most of that energy converts into kinetic energy as the domino moves toward the ground.

When a domino falls, it creates a pulse of force that moves through the entire chain at the same speed, just like the pulse of nerve impulses traveling along your brain’s axons. This “domino effect” is why dominoes can create such a dramatic and spectacular display when they’re set up properly.

Domino art can be simple or elaborate, and includes straight lines, curved lines that form pictures when they fall, 3D structures such as towers and pyramids, and grids that look like maps or other geometric patterns. Creating such works requires planning ahead on paper, and making sure the layout is accurate. Then a craftsman can use a combination of tools, including a drill press, radial arm saw, scroll saw and belt sander, to make it happen. Hevesh has created some of the most impressive domino displays in the world, and she plans each project carefully. She makes test versions of each section and films them in slow motion to ensure they work as intended before putting together the whole installation.