The Wonder of Dominoes

Dominoes are a common household toy used for playing games and building structures. They can be lined up in long rows or knocked over one at a time. Dominos also have a more scientific use as a model of how neurons, or nerve cells, fire and transmit impulses through the body. Today’s WONDER of the Day, inspired by Juan, explores how these simple blocks can teach us about the power of chain reactions and the Domino Effect.

A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block, thumb-sized, with one side blank and the other bearing from one to six pips or dots: 28 such pieces make up a complete set. Dominoes are sometimes called bones, cards, tiles, men, or stones and can be used in a variety of gaming and decorative applications. They are most famous for their use in playing games where they are arranged and knocked over.

When a player places a domino, it sets off a chain reaction that causes the other dominoes to topple over one at a time. The sequence continues until one of the players cannot place another domino, then play passes to the other players. There are many different games that can be played with dominoes, including blocking, scoring, and trick-taking.

In a game of dominoes, each player starts with a set of seven or more dominoes and must place them in order to win. Each domino has a number of pip dots on it that correspond to the numbers of points in a game. The first player to score a point wins the game. The number of points scored depends on the rules in a given game.

Dominoes can be arranged to create beautiful designs and artworks. Some artists build 3D structures, such as towers and pyramids, while others use them to create curved lines or grids that form pictures. Artists can also add color to their designs to enhance the appearance and make them more interesting.

Physicist Stephen Morris explains that when a domino is stood upright, it has potential energy (energy stored based on its position). When you knock over the first domino, much of this potential energy is converted to kinetic energy (energy of motion) and transferred to the next domino. This energy propels it forward and causes it to knock over the next domino and so on.

In life, a domino effect occurs when changing one behavior triggers a shift in other behaviors that lead to positive results. For example, if you start making your bed every day, you may begin to change other habits related to cleanliness and organization. Jennifer Dukes Lee noticed this effect when she started making her bed every day and found that it made the rest of her home cleaner and more organized. When she changed her beliefs about how she should care for her home, she became more committed to these new habits and built them into her identity. These changes can have far-reaching consequences.