Domino is a generic term for a set of small playing tiles that can be used to play games, or just to display artfully in a home. While the tiles themselves can be used for various types of games, most domino sets are arranged in rows to form an aesthetically pleasing layout. Many different rules can be applied to these setups, from simple blocking games to complicated scoring systems. One common domino game is called “Sticky Dominos.” In this version, each player must play a tile that either touches one end of the chain or reaches the other end—or both. When a player cannot continue play, he or she simply knocks over the closest domino from the boneyard (or “the table”). This starts the dominoes falling, causing more and more to topple over as the chain grows.
Hevesh first started playing with dominoes at age 9, when her grandparents gifted her a basic 28-tile set. She loved setting up the dominoes in straight or curved lines and flicking them over to see how the entire sequence fell, one after another. She soon began creating more elaborate designs, and now she’s a professional domino artist with more than 2 million YouTube subscribers who watch her create mind-blowing domino setups.
To achieve these elaborate domino effects, Hevesh uses a combination of engineering-design principles and the laws of physics. She considers the theme and purpose of the domino layout—for example, a set of pawns representing chess pieces—and brainstorms images or words she might want to incorporate. She then plans out the layout, calculating how much space is needed for each domino and determining the direction in which it needs to move when it falls. Finally, she builds the dominoes using a variety of woodworking tools and techniques.
Physicist Stephen Morris, who studies complex mechanical systems such as dominoes, agrees that the key to a good domino effect is gravity. When a domino is standing upright, it stores energy as potential energy based on its position in the chain. But when a domino falls, this potential energy converts to kinetic energy—the energy of motion—and some of it is transferred to the next domino, causing it to fall as well.
The removal of a domino from the chain mimics the process of nerve impulses in a human body—the ionic reset that reestablishes the resting state of a neuron after a nerve signal has propagated down its axon. When a domino is removed, the resulting ionic pulse is interrupted and the nerve cannot fire again until it can complete this reestablishment. This reestablishment of the resting state is what allows nerve cells to function properly and sustain our bodies and minds. The ability of a single domino to spark a chain reaction—the domino effect—is the fundamental principle that powers the human nervous system and many other complex mechanical systems. It’s also a great metaphor for business strategy and leadership. Just as a domino can trigger a chain reaction that grows and spreads, it’s important to understand how to effectively leverage the power of an organization so that it can grow, evolve, and thrive.