Writing About Dominoes

Dominoes are small rectangular wooden or plastic blocks, marked on one face with pips resembling those on dice. They are used for a wide variety of games. We have all seen those beautiful domino constructions where the first piece is tipped ever-so-slightly and the rest fall in a rhythmic cascade. This effect is referred to as the “domino effect.” In writing, it’s important for a writer to think of how an action might cause a series of similar actions that will follow it, just like the dominoes. This can help a writer create a story with momentum, and avoid a stale or boring ending.

The word domino comes from the Latin dominus, meaning master. A man with this name is likely to be cautious and understand that every action has a reaction. He will know the gravity of each decision and keep his eyes open for advantageous opportunities.

In the game of domino, each player in turn places a tile on the table. Each tile must be placed so that its matching end is adjacent to another, forming a chain. The length of the chain depends on whether the tiles are doubles. A double may be positioned square to the other, perpendicular to it or across it, depending on the type of game being played.

The most common domino sets are double six (28 tiles) and double nine (55) but larger sets exist. Larger sets are often used for games involving more than four players or for those seeking long domino chains.

While the earliest known domino games were positional, later games focused on scoring points by creating combinations of specific numbers. These combination are grouped into suits: The suit of ones is represented by a single domino with all pips showing; the suit of threes has two dominoes with all three pips showing and the suit of blanks or 0s have five dominoes with all four pips showing.

Creating these mind-blowing domino setups takes time and patience. Hevesh creates her installations using a version of the engineering-design process: She considers the theme or purpose of the installation, brainstorms images and words that might be associated with it, and then starts building the pieces. She tests each section to make sure it works before putting it all together.

Physicists have shown that dominoes are more powerful than we might imagine. A single domino can knock over things about one-and-a-half times its size, according to a 1983 study by University of British Columbia physicist Lorne Whitehead. A more recent experiment by a group of students at University of Toronto used a computer program to simulate dominoes and showed that the same laws of physics apply. In this video, the students set up 13 dominoes and then triggered them to fall. They then filmed the results to create this fascinating video. A similar experiment was conducted by researchers at Stanford University in 2007. They also simulated the domino effect using an electronic circuit.