The Domino Effect


When people think of domino, they might picture a game where players line up a row of small square tiles and then knock them over. However, the word can also refer to a type of strategy or an effect that occurs when a single event triggers a chain reaction of events.

What is the domino effect? And how can it be applied to our everyday lives? Today, we’re WONDERING with Lily Hevesh, a 20-year-old professional domino artist who creates spectacular setups for movies, TV shows, and even events for pop star Katy Perry.

A domino is a small rectangular block of wood or plastic with a line down the center containing numbers that vary from 0 (or blank) to 6. Most sets contain 28 unique tiles. Besides the standard blocking and scoring games, there are many other domino variants that involve solitaire or trick-taking. Some are adaptations of card games that were once popular in some areas to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards.

While many of us have probably played a form of the classic game of domino as children, few know that it has a long history and many different variations. Early forms of the game date back to the 12th or 13th century in China.

The most familiar variation is probably the double-six set. Players draw their tiles, and the first player (determined by drawing lots or by who holds the heaviest hand) places a tile on the table, either vertically or horizontally. Then, each subsequent player plays a tile so that it touches one of the open ends of the previous tile.

Each open end produces a number of points depending on the particular rules of the game being played. For example, a double-six can produce the numbers 6 and 12, while a 3-6 can only produce 5. Often, a domino is placed so that both ends have the same number showing on them. This is called “stitching up the ends.”

When a domino is standing upright, it has potential energy because of its position on the table. As the domino falls, much of this energy is converted to kinetic energy because of the force of gravity pulling on it. This energy is then transferred to the other dominoes in the chain, which cause them to fall as well.

In general, the more pieces of a domino chain are completed, the higher the score. Normally, the player who achieves the target score in a given number of rounds wins the game. Some games require all players to finish before play stops. Alternatively, players may agree to a set of victory conditions, such as reaching 100 points or 200 points. Typically, the winner is the player who “chips out” last, although some games have no rules about this.