The Domino Effect
A domino is a small, flat rectangular block used as a gaming object. Dominoes are similar to dice or playing cards, in that they can be used to play a variety of games. Each domino has a line running through its center, separating it into two square ends that are either blank or marked with an arrangement of dots, called pips. The number of pips on each end determines the value of that domino. The most common dominoes are made from wood, but they can also be made of ivory, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), bone, and ebony.
A game of dominoes begins with the player placing one domino on its edge against another domino that is already in place. This allows the players to build long lines of dominoes. When a domino is tipped over, it causes the next domino in line to tip and so on until all the dominoes have fallen. In many of the games, the players must build certain patterns with their dominoes in order to win.
Besides being a fun activity for children, dominoes can teach important lessons about the effects of one action having a series of repercussions. This is the origin of the idiom “domino effect,” which means that when one event or event chain occurs, it can affect others in ways you might not have expected.
For example, a person infected with a disease in the hospital can infect other patients and spread the infection like a domino effect. This type of infection is known as a nosocomial infection. Infections in hospitals are often caused by medical professionals who don’t properly wash their hands, which can lead to the spread of germs throughout a patient’s entire body. This can lead to serious infections and even death.
Another use of the domino effect is in the way a nerve impulse travels down the length of a neuron, known as an axon. A toppled domino is a model for the way a nerve impulse travels from its body to the end of the axon. Once a domino is toppled, it sends a pulse that continues along the axon until it reaches its end, which is known as the synapse.
Lily Hevesh, a professional domino artist who creates elaborate setups for movies and events, says that the biggest factor in her creations is understanding the laws of physics. Hevesh explains that gravity pulls a knocked-over domino toward the ground, sending it crashing into the next domino and triggering a chain reaction.
Hevesh has worked on projects involving hundreds of thousands of dominoes, and she’s helped set the Guinness World Record for the most dominoes toppled in a circular arrangement. But she still has one physical phenomenon to master: the speed at which a domino falls. To understand this, she recommends a simple experiment: place a single domino on top of a ruler and barely touch it with your finger.