The Domino Effect

Domino is a game in which players place domino pieces edge-to-edge on a table to form chains of one or more rows. Each domino has a number displayed on one of its faces, and the other face may be blank or marked with an arrangement of dots, called pips, that indicate its value. A domino’s value is determined by the number of pips it has on its two opposite sides, with higher values having more pips.

Lily Hevesh began playing with dominoes as a child. Her grandparents gave her a 28-piece set, and she enjoyed setting up straight or curved lines and flicking them to see the entire line fall. At age 20, she has turned her domino collection into a career as a domino artist, designing spectacular setups for movies, TV shows, and even an album launch for pop star Katy Perry.

She follows a version of the engineering-design process when creating her domino art, beginning with considering a theme or purpose. Then she brainstorms images or words that might convey the desired message or feeling. Hevesh then creates a drawing of the domino layout, including arrows that show how she wants the pieces to fall. She also calculates how many pieces she needs to complete the design.

Physicist Stephen Morris, who studies the domino effect, explains that a standing domino has potential energy, or stored energy based on its position. However, as a domino is pushed by another piece, much of that energy converts to kinetic energy—the energy of motion—and the rest provides the force needed to knock over the first domino. This energy travels to the next domino, and so on, causing the entire chain to fall.

The same principle applies to the real world. According to the Domino Effect, if you change one behavior, it will trigger a chain reaction and cause a shift in related behaviors. For example, if you reduce your sedentary leisure time, you’re likely to increase your active exercise. Similarly, if you decrease your food fat intake, you’re likely to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption.

There are many different ways to play domino, from scoring games like bergen and muggins to blocking games such as matador and chicken foot. All of them help develop strategic thinking and counting skills. But most of all, they’re fun!