The Domino Effect

A domino is a small, thumb-sized, rectangular block with an arrangement of dots or pips (from one to six) on one face and blank or identically patterned faces on the other. Each domino also has a number of squares on the back that indicate its value in the game. Typically, 28 such tiles form a complete set of dominoes. A domino is used with a variety of games that involve laying the tiles down in straight and angular lines, as well as other specialized patterns.

When a domino is knocked over, it transmits energy to the next domino in line. This causes the latter to tip, which in turn can cause even more dominoes to fall, and so on, creating a chain reaction that continues until all the tiles have fallen. This is the basis for the phrase “the domino effect,” in which a single action can trigger much larger consequences than expected.

Lily Hevesh has been fascinated by dominoes since she was 9 years old, when her grandparents gave her a classic 28-piece set. She loved setting them up in a long line, flicking the first domino, and watching the rest of the set tumble. Hevesh, now 20, is a professional domino artist who creates mind-blowing designs for events and private clients.

She uses a version of the engineering-design process that she learned in college to design her pieces. She starts by considering the theme or purpose of an installation, brainstorming images and words that might relate to that topic. Then, she begins sketching out a general layout and planning the order of her creation. She then creates a model of her piece to help her visualize how it will look before moving on to the construction phase.

The earliest dominoes were made of ebony blacks and ivory, which may have inspired the name. In the game, a player wins by scoring a set amount of points over an opponent. Points are awarded for matching adjacent ends of tiles, such as a double-blank counting as zero or 14. In some games, the players score points based on the total number of pips on their opposing pieces.

Dominoes are also a tool for scientists to learn more about the behavior of nerve cells, or neurons. When a domino is tapped, it sends out a pulse that travels at a constant speed without losing energy or changing direction, just like the nerve impulses that travel down a nerve cell. By studying the way a domino’s pulse moves, researchers can better understand how these signals are transmitted and received by nerve cells. The results could ultimately improve treatments for conditions like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, a study published in the journal Nature Communications last year found that a type of neural network designed from dominoes was able to detect abnormal brain activity associated with epilepsy in patients with an electrical seizure. The researchers hope that the model can be further developed and applied to more complex brain conditions.

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