The Domino Effect

Domino is a game in which players place dominoes on a flat surface, then knock them over by placing other dominoes on top of them. Dominoes can be set up in a straight or curved line, in grids that form pictures when they fall, or as 3D structures such as towers and pyramids. There are many different games that can be played with dominoes, and the rules vary from one to the next. Some are simple, while others can be very complicated and involve a lot of strategy.

A domino is a small rectangular block, about thumb size, with from one to six pips or dots. A complete set of dominoes contains 28 such blocks. The word domino is also used as a verb, to mean “to cause to fall in a series or line”.

When a domino is struck, it converts its potential energy into kinetic energy, the energy of motion. Some of this energy is transmitted to the next domino, giving it the push needed to knock it over. This continues for each of the dominoes that are struck, until all of them have fallen.

As a result of this simple physical phenomenon, a chain reaction, known as the Domino effect, has been observed in human interactions and even in biological systems. It is the basis for much of our understanding of how a system can develop out of control, and is an important part of the process by which a virus spreads, or an accident causes a crash that leads to other accidents.

Lily Hevesh started playing with dominoes as a child, and quickly developed a passion for creating mind-blowing domino setups. Now, she’s a professional domino artist, with more than 2 million YouTube subscribers. She’s created domino artwork for movies, TV shows, and events–including an album launch for pop star Katy Perry.

To create a domino art, Hevesh starts by considering the theme or purpose of an installation. Then she brainstorms images or words that could relate to it. Once she has a clear idea of what she wants to achieve, she creates a blueprint for the design. She uses a version of the engineering-design process to plan how to build her track, including any obstacles she might need to overcome.

When she’s ready, Hevesh sets up her track on a hard surface and then flicks the first domino. Depending on the type of domino she has, she may have to move other pieces around to make it work, and she might have to make adjustments as she goes along.

As the chain reaction progresses, each player must match the ends of their dominoes to the end of the previous tile. If the player can’t match a domino, they must return to the boneyard and choose another one. The player who reaches the target score wins the game. The number of points awarded is usually determined by counting the pips on opposing tiles (e.g., a 6-6 counts as 12), and double-blanks can count as either 1 or zero.