The Domino Effect


Dominoes are one of the most popular childhood toys around. Kids love to line them up in a straight or curved line, flick them and watch them fall, one by one. It’s fun, educational and a great way to develop motor skills. As adults, we still enjoy playing with dominoes but can also use them as a form of art and for other activities such as sculpting and building 3D structures. Dominoes are also a good example of the domino effect, where one small action can lead to an unexpected sequence of events.

Dominos are little rectangular tiles that represent the roll of two dice. Each domino has a number on each end and can be either black or white, depending on the set you have. The numbers on each end are referred to as spots or pips, and range from six pips down to none (or blank). A domino is regarded as the “heaviest” when it has a greater number of pips on its ends than a tile with the same number on both ends, which is referred to as a double.

The word Domino originates from the Latin dominica, meaning “flip” or “turn.” Like playing cards, of which they are a variant, dominoes have identifying marks on one side and are blank or identically patterned on the other. In addition to their numbered ends, dominoes also have lines that divide them visually into two squares. The identifiers on each square correspond to the numbers on a die, though not exactly like the dots on a die.

In the 1950s, a journalist named Robert Alsop used the metaphor of dominoes to illustrate how an action in one country might trigger similar actions elsewhere in the world—what we now refer to as the Domino Effect. The term has since become a common phrase that applies to any situation in which one small trigger can cause a series of events.

Lily Hevesh, a 20-year-old Domino Artist with over 2 million YouTube subscribers, is famous for creating mind-blowing domino installations. Her process involves brainstorming themes or images that she might want to convey with the pieces, then planning how to arrange them into a 3-D setup. She often makes test versions of each section of a design before filming them in slow motion, allowing her to correct any problems before putting them all together.

When she’s finished, Hevesh is left with an incredible structure that can be viewed from many angles. But when she first started out, she was content with arranging a few basic rows and columns of dominoes in a grid pattern. Dominoes can be arranged in all sorts of shapes and patterns, from curved lines to 3D structures that look like buildings. They can also be used to create a message or make a statement, such as the “Don’t Stop Believing” display at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Some of the most stunning displays involve a single domino that spans several feet.