The Domino Effect

When a single domino falls, it sets in motion a chain reaction of greater and often disastrous consequences. This is known as the Domino Effect. It is the opposite of an A-B-C story, in which a minor setback creates a cascade of events that eventually leads to the desired outcome.

The term domino is also used as a synonym for the entire system of events that occur as a result of a small initial action, such as an accident or an election result. It can also refer to a person, group, or organization who is thought to be the cause of an event, or who has a certain influence over others.

A domino is a rectangular block with blank or marked faces and pips (small dots resembling those on dice) that can be stacked on end in long rows, forming lines that are able to be knocked over by a smaller piece. Dominoes are a popular game for children, but they can also be used to build structures and to make complex designs. They are also a useful teaching tool to help children learn the principles of gravity and balance.

Dominoes are made from a variety of materials including wood, bone, and plastic. They are typically asymmetrical, so one side is marked with pips and the other with blank or painted surfaces. In most domino games, the number of pips on a particular domino is used to determine its value in the chain or to distinguish it from other dominoes in a hand. Some games require players to empty their hands of all the matching pips. Others involve blocking opponents’ play, while still others allow players to compete for the longest domino chain.

Hevesh, who works in a ceramic studio in a converted church in Oakland, uses an engineering-design process to build her mind-blowing domino setups. She starts with the overall theme and purpose of an installation. She then brainstorms images or words that might convey the concept. Then, she draws rough sketches of the pieces she intends to use, and finally, she begins putting the pieces together.

Each time a domino is played, it must be positioned so that its two matching ends touch fully. If the player plays a tile onto a double, the shape of the chain develops into a snake-line as the domino is pushed cross-ways across the two adjoining sides.

When a domino is knocked over, it transfers energy to the next domino in the chain. This energy is stored as potential energy until the first domino is pushed. Then, the potential energy converts to kinetic energy, which causes the domino to slide against and push on the next domino until it falls over as well. This chain reaction continues until the last domino is tipped over. The physics of this phenomenon is explained by physicist Stephen Morris: When a domino is standing upright, it has potential energy because its tops and bottoms slip against each other and against the surface on which it’s sitting. But once a domino is pushed, its potential energy transfers to kinetic energy, which causes it to fall and trigger the chain reaction.