The Domino Effect


Dominos are a fascinating example of how one small change can trigger a chain reaction that affects much larger parts of our lives. This domino effect can be seen in the way we set priorities for our day, how a single success can propel other efforts forward, or even how a domino’s structure itself can influence how it falls.

The history of domino dates back to the mid-18th century, when it first appeared in Italy and France as a gaming fad. The word itself comes from the Latin domina, meaning “flip.” The game is typically played by placing a domino edge to edge against another, with adjacent faces either identical (e.g., 5 to 5) or arranged to form some other specified total.

Hevesh creates dazzling designs with her dominoes, which can include straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, stacked walls, and 3D structures like towers and pyramids. When planning an artful arrangement, Hevesh first makes a rough sketch on paper of the way she wants it to look when completed. Then she builds a test version in her garage, lining up dominoes to make sure each section works well together. Hevesh uses a variety of woodworking tools, including a drill press, radial arm saw, scroll saw, belt sander, and welder. But she also relies on common household tools, such as a staple gun and duct tape.

Once she is satisfied with the design, Hevesh begins the process of building the final piece. She starts with the biggest 3-D sections and then adds smaller flat arrangements. She also creates a timeline and budget for each project, as she often works on multiple pieces at once. She is constantly checking her progress and adjusting accordingly, but she never gets discouraged or frustrated. Her determination is evident as she talks about how she has to stay focused on the goal, not the obstacles that may come up along the way.

Physicist Stephen Morris explains that when Hevesh sets up a domino, she “stores potential energy,” which is a type of energy that can be redirected into motion. If she nudges the first domino just enough, that piece’s inertia overcomes its own weight and it flips over, creating a chain reaction of dominoes falling one after another. The next domino has kinetic energy, which is the energy of movement, and it uses that energy to push on the one in front of it. Then the previous domino has kinetic energy, which it uses to knock over the next one, and so on.

The domino theory is not only fun to talk about, but it can be a helpful framework for thinking about a story’s plot. Plotting a novel often boils down to one question: What happens next? Whether we compose our manuscripts off the cuff or carefully outline every detail, considering the domino effect can help us answer that question in a compelling and convincing manner.

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