The Art of Dominoes
A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block, typically twice as long as it is wide, with either one or both ends bearing from one to six dots or pips. A complete set of dominoes contains 28 pieces. Dominoes can be used to play games of chance or skill, or they may be arranged in angular lines to create artistic designs.
Dominoes have been around for centuries, but they didn’t become a popular game until the early 18th Century. By the 19th Century, they were being produced as puzzles. They resembled a crossword puzzle in that players had to fit tiles together based on their arithmetic properties of the pips, usually totals of lines of tiles and tile halves.
Hevesh is an artist and engineer who uses physics to build incredible domino arrangements. She works on her creations in sections, building them up to the point that they can be tested for stability. She even videotapes her work in slow motion, to help her make precise corrections when a section doesn’t fall as expected.
While a domino isn’t as large as a house, it can still be quite heavy. When Hevesh sets up a design, she carefully considers the weight of each piece and the size of the gap between it and the next part of the chain. She also works out a mathematical equation for each part of the arrangement to see how the dominoes will interact with each other once they’re in place.
Shevesh’s most complex installations take several nail-biting minutes to fall, but she says that she can depend on a simple physical phenomenon to make sure the whole thing works: gravity. When she knocks over the first domino, gravity pulls it toward Earth and causes it to hit the next one in line. The force of this impact converts into energy that pushes on the other dominoes, eventually causing them to tip over as well.
Dominoes have a long history of use in a variety of games, including a wide range of racing and matching types of games. The domino has also been used as a model for many real-life situations, such as predicting how countries are likely to react to political events.
Today, many people continue to enjoy playing with dominoes. Some people like to line them up in long rows and then knock them over, while others play complex domino games. Others still use them as toys, stacking the pieces on end and then arranging them into intricate shapes.