The Domino Effect


One of the most satisfying things to do is set up a line of dominoes and watch it fall, one after the other. Lily Hevesh, a domino artist from Los Angeles, builds mind-blowing setups, such as a 15-color rainbow spiral that uses 12,000 dominoes. She follows an engineering-design process to ensure her creations are safe.

Like playing cards, of which they are a variant, dominoes have an identity-bearing side that’s marked with a pattern of spots, or pips, while the other side is blank. There are different suits, such as the suit of threes or the suit of 0’s, each of which has its own color. Each tile also has a number, which distinguishes it from the others. The most common commercial domino sets contain 28 tiles; larger ones exist for games involving more players or longer chains.

Dominoes are used to play a wide variety of games, but two types are most popular in the West: blocking games and scoring games. Blocking games let players empty their hands, while blocking other player’s play. Scoring games, such as bergen or muggins, involve counting the number of pips in each player’s losing dominoes.

The physics behind a falling domino isn’t complicated, but calculating it is. A domino’s inertia prevents it from moving unless pushed, but a tiny nudge is enough to tip it over. As the first domino falls, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, which is transmitted to the next domino and gives it the push it needs to fall. This energy travels to each successive domino until the entire chain is complete.

In the case of a domino effect, which refers to a sequence of events that build upon one another, each event can have an impact far greater than its initial size. For example, a single person may flip an online comment into a rant that spreads to thousands of people and provokes a national discussion on gun control. This type of chain reaction is often referred to as an internet meme.

A business that finds itself in trouble must address the issue quickly to avoid a domino effect that could lead to collapse. In 2004, the pizza company Domino’s was in deep financial trouble and struggling to stay relevant to customers. The company introduced new items and streamlined operations, but these efforts were not enough to offset declining sales and the loss of top leaders. With a change in leadership and a focus on employee engagement, the company saw its financial problems improve, and it’s still thriving today.

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