What is Domino?

Domino is an idiom that describes a situation in which one small event triggers another similar event and so on until a chain reaction occurs. The image is that of a pile of dominoes lined up and standing on end, ready to be knocked over by one slight provocation. The word is also used in a business context to refer to the way that one initiative can cascade down a company’s hierarchy.

The word domino is not related to the game itself, though it has been suggested that the name of the game owes something to its earlier use as a garment. In English and French, the term domino originally referred to a long hooded cloak that could be worn with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade. The earliest citation in print dates from 1750.

As the physics teacher at Hevesh’s school points out, the key to a successful domino effect is that each domino has potential energy, which it stores by being upright against the pull of gravity. This energy is transformed when the first domino falls, converting to kinetic energy, or the energy of motion. That energy is then transmitted to the next domino, providing the push it needs to fall, and so on. The result is a chain reaction, with each successive domino falling because it has no more potential energy.

There are many different games that can be played with dominoes, and a great deal of variety in the rules for each. Typical games include blocking, scoring, and trick-taking. In some cases, dominoes are used as a substitute for cards, to circumvent strict religious prohibitions against the playing of card games.

One of the most popular domino games is a simple strategy game called Concentration. In this game, players draw two tiles from a set of dominoes and place them on the edge of a table in front of them. Each player then attempts to match the value of the top side of the tiles to those of the bottom by placing one domino on each exposed end. The game is won by the first player to complete a line of matching values across the table.

In writing, the analogy of domino is used to help writers describe scenes that advance the story without seeming overlong (heavy on details or minutiae) or too short (by skipping over important events or by being too shallow at crucial moments of discovery or plot point). Like a well-placed domino, these scenes need to be carefully timed so that they hit just right and create a logical impact.

Hevesh often tests a part of her installations by setting up a small version of the layout on the floor, then moving it to see if it works. Once she’s satisfied that the piece will work, she sets it up in three-dimensional form and then connects the individual elements together. She says that the process of creating a domino setup is somewhat similar to that of designing a building: She starts with a base or foundation, then adds the upper parts, and then connects the entire structure with lines of dominoes.