The Power of Dominoes

Domino is an elegant and complex game that involves a lot of strategy and careful planning. But, at the heart of domino is a simple principle: one small victory leads to another. Just like the ripple effect created by a single drop of water, the smallest domino action can trigger an entire series of subsequent actions, changing your outlook on life and empowering you to create your own chain reaction. That’s why it’s important to look for those “domino actions” and cherish every little bit of progress.

Dominoes are a type of flat, thumb-sized tile bearing from one to six pips (dots or spots) on each side. They are arranged in suits of two or more, each suit containing tiles with the same number of dots on each end. A domino set contains 28 such tiles.

The most common domino sets are double-six, with 28 tiles, and double-nine, with 55 tiles. These sets can be supplemented by a variety of “extended” sets, which introduce additional ends and increase the maximum number of unique combinations of spots. These extended sets often have a different color scheme from the standard white and black, and are available in woods such as oak, walnut, and redwood; metals such as brass and pewter; ceramic clay; and even frosted glass or crystal.

Most domino games are played by laying the dominoes down in lines and angular patterns, either blocking other players or scoring points. A domino can also be positioned in a circle for the game of five-and-threes, where players attach a domino from their hand to the other player’s dominoes so that the sum of the numbers on the ends is divisible by five or three, resulting in a score each time.

Hevesh, who has worked on projects involving up to 300,000 dominoes, uses a version of the engineering-design process when creating her mind-blowing installations. She starts by considering the theme or purpose of the piece, and brainstorms images or words that might fit it.

When Hevesh sets up her massive domino displays, she places them carefully to make sure they will fall in the desired pattern. But, when a domino is pushed, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy—the energy of motion. That energy is transmitted to the next domino, providing a push for it to fall as well.

When Hevesh’s setups are complete, she simply waits for the domino effect to take over. This is an essential part of her work. When the first domino falls, it triggers a cascade of small victories—the same way making your bed four days in a row can drastically change your outlook on life. By focusing on those small wins, you can build up your self-confidence and motivation to make bigger changes.