The domino effect is the process by which one small action or task creates a chain reaction that moves another, smaller activity forward. It’s a powerful concept that can help us to better focus on our goals and take them to the next level.
In many ways, dominoes are a metaphor for the importance of commitment and consistency. In the book Influence, author Robert Cialdini explains that when people commit to an idea or goal, they’re more likely to continue working toward it. This can be especially true when it’s a challenging or difficult task, as dominoes often are.
Dominoes are rectangular pieces of wood or plastic with identifying pips, similar to dice. In addition to the pips, they also have other marks that identify the tile’s identity. In traditional dominoes, these marks include numbers, letters, and symbols; they can be painted or inlaid.
They come in different sizes, from miniature to large. Some are made of polymer resin, which makes them cheaper and more durable than natural wooden ones.
A double-six domino set includes 28 different tiles that are arranged in pairs. The pips on each end of each pair can be either zero or six, and the highest-value piece has six pips on each end.
These pips can be arranged to create combinations of spots, and the number of pips on each tile determines its value. In some sets, the pips may be arranged to indicate military or civilian suits, but that’s rare and usually only occurs in Chinese dominoes.
The physics of dominoes are complex, but there are a few basic rules. Standing a domino upright gives it potential energy, which is stored based on its position. When it falls, much of that potential energy converts into kinetic energy—the energy of motion. That energy then travels to the next domino and provides enough push for it to fall, too.
There are also a few specific physical factors that help dominoes fall, including gravity. When a domino is knocked over, it pulls against the force of gravity, and that’s what sets it off.
Gravity can also cause a domino to topple over if it’s not in the proper spot when it hits the ground. That’s why a great domino installation requires a lot of attention to detail.
Hevesh, a Chicago-based artist who has built a series of mind-blowing domino installations, uses a version of the engineering-design process to ensure that each section works correctly before putting it all together. She begins by making test versions of each section, filming them to make sure they fall properly.
She also tests each section by arranging it in different positions. When it’s all done, she puts the final dominos together to make a complete, functioning display.
Hevesh’s work demonstrates the power of combining science with creativity. She says her designs follow a process that she learned from an engineer. She starts by thinking about the theme of her creation, and then brainstorming images or words she can use to represent that theme. She then works out a plan for the design. Once the plan is finished, she starts to build it, starting with the biggest 3-D sections. She then adds flat arrangements and lines of dominoes that connect all the sections.