Wonder of the Day: The Domino Effect

Dominoes are black and white rectangles that some people like to use to play games. Others like to line them up in long rows. They can be played with by both adults and children and can be used to create art. Today’s Wonder of the Day comes to us from Juan, who wants to know more about the domino effect.

A domino is a small rectangular block of wood or plastic, typically 28 in number. Each domino has one side with a pattern of spots, or pips, that resemble those on dice. The other side of the domino is either blank or marked with an arrangement of pips that is identical to the first. Traditionally, dominoes are made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or dark hardwood such as ebony. The pips are painted or inlaid and may be in contrasting colors from the background.

There are many different types of domino games. Some are blocking games, where players try to prevent their opponents from playing certain tiles; others are scoring games, where the winning player counts all the pips in his or her opponent’s dominoes to determine the total points scored. Many domino games are adaptations of card games and were used to circumvent religious prohibitions against using cards.

Hevesh, a YouTube user who makes amazing domino creations, uses a version of the engineering-design process when creating her mind-blowing installations. She considers the theme or purpose of the installation, brainstorms images or words she might want to include, and then starts planning how to incorporate them into her design. As she plays with the set, she tests her designs by moving a tile and seeing what happens. She will then change her plan based on the results.

While it is possible for dominoes to fall without any force being applied to them, they are most often knocked over by a person or piece of equipment. In fact, scientists have experimented with the effects of different materials on how fast a domino will fall. Interestingly, the most common material found in a domino is wood, but scientists have also created models made of other materials such as metals and ceramic clay.

Physicist Lorne Whitehead, from the University of British Columbia, conducted a study in 1983 to test the power of a domino. He placed 13 dominoes on a table, with each domino being about the size of a Tic Tac. Then he pushed down the first domino in a slow, controlled manner. The dominoes fell in a chain reaction that continued until the last one fell, with each domino picking up speed as it went down.

The domino is a symbol of a system that is able to build upon its successes, overcoming obstacles along the way. This type of leadership is often referred to as “the domino effect.” In order for the domino effect to work, everyone involved must be on board and understand their roles in the chain. Otherwise, the result can be chaos.

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