Wonder of the Day: Domino

Domino, pronounced domin-oh, is a game that uses flat rectangular blocks to build structures. These are placed side by side and arranged to form lines and angular patterns. Dominoes can be used for many different games, some of which involve building complex structures. Others are more focused on moving the entire set of dominoes in one direction. When the first domino falls, it creates a chain reaction that causes other pieces to fall. Today’s Wonder of the Day explores how this happens, and what we can learn from the process.

Dominoes are most often made from polymer materials such as plastic or epoxy resin, although they may also be made from wood, stone or even glass. In the past, however, dominoes were primarily made from natural materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory and dark hardwoods like ebony. These were more expensive to produce and more difficult to work with, but they offered a more elegant look and feel.

The most common domino sets contain 28 tiles. The identity of each domino is marked on one face with a number of dots or pips, with the other side blank or identically patterned. There are several variations of pips, but the most common is a double six. Each domino belongs to a suit, which are numbered from zero to six. A single domino can belong to two suits, but only one suit is active at a time.

A typical domino is twice as long as it is wide, and the ends of a domino are usually distinguished by a line that separates them visually into two squares. A domino’s value is determined by the number of pips on either end. A domino is “heavier” if it has more pips, and “lighter” if it has fewer or none.

Hevesh carefully tests each section of her installations before assembling them. She then films each test in slow motion so that she can make precise corrections if needed. She takes special care to ensure that the biggest 3-D sections work properly. This is critical because the most important part of a domino structure is how the pieces interact with each other.

One of the key elements in Hevesh’s approach is a concept she calls the domino effect. This principle is based on a theory by social scientist Robert Cialdini, author of the book Influence. It states that people are more likely to honor their commitments if they see those commitments as aligned with their self-image. Hevesh’s videos demonstrate how the energy that she puts into the first domino can be utilized to knock over a much larger series of dominoes. This principle can be applied to personal and professional life, and it’s a great way to visualize the power of momentum.