A domino is a small tile that represents the roll of two dice. The tiles have a line down the center and each end contains a number ranging from 0 to 6. The most common type of domino is a double-six set, which produces 28 unique tiles. The domino is flat and thumb-sized, making it easy to hold and manipulate. When a domino is tipped over, it triggers the next domino to tip over, and so on, creating long lines of dominoes or more complex patterns. Because of this, the domino has become a symbol for a sequence of events that starts with one small trigger and leads to much larger—and sometimes catastrophic—consequences. This idea has also led to the idiom domino effect, which is used to describe any situation in which a single change may trigger a chain reaction that affects many other people or things.
A Domino’s Pizza delivery vehicle is designed to be a domino in the sense that it is capable of carrying large numbers of pizzas at once and knocking over other vehicles as they are driven along its route. This domino-like design has been key to the success of the Domino’s brand. It’s a model that other companies can use to create innovative products and services as well.
Dominoes are also a popular toy for children. When children place dominoes on end in a long line, they can make very complicated designs. They can also play games with them by matching the ends of dominoes (e.g., one’s touch one’s or two’s touch two’s). The physics behind these activities can be very interesting.
The word “domino” is an Italian word for “flip,” and the first documented use of the word occurred in the mid-18th century. It originally denoted a garment with a black front that contrasted with a white surplice worn by clergymen. Over time, the domino became a game piece and the name stuck.
Hevesh’s process of building her mind-blowing domino installations begins with a theme or purpose. She brainstorms images or words that might be related to the theme and then thinks about how she could express those ideas with dominoes. She then tests each section of the installation on its own to ensure that it works properly. Once each section is ready, she assembles it. She builds the biggest 3-D sections first, then adds flat arrangements and finally the lines of dominoes that connect all the sections together.
In addition to testing each domino individually, Hevesh makes video recordings of the entire test and analyzes them in slow motion to see if anything needs to be adjusted. Occasionally, she will even film the whole setup while it’s in action to catch anything that might go wrong.
As a physicist, Hevesh understands the physical principles at work here. Standing a domino upright gives it potential energy, or stored energy based on its position. But once the domino falls, that potential energy morphs into kinetic energy, or the energy of movement, and travels to each other domino in the line, pushing it over until all the pieces have fallen.