The Art of Domino


Domino, a small tile that represents the roll of two dice, has been a favorite game of children and adults for decades. It is also a useful tool for teaching physics, and has been used in educational settings to help students understand kinetic energy. A domino set includes 28 unique tiles, each displaying a number on one side and a blank on the other. Originally, the domino was designed to represent each of the 21 possible results of throwing two six-sided dice. The name of the game and the underlying principles have evolved over time, however. In the past, the word “domino” also denoted a long hooded cloak worn with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade.

While there are many different ways to play domino, most involve scoring points by laying tiles end-to-end in a line or a circle. Each tile has a specific number of dots on it, with doubles counting as either one or two (if the ends match: 6-6 counts as six, 4-6 counts as four). Some players also choose to make the dominoes’ blank sides “wild,” allowing them to be ascribed any value. The player who scores the highest number of points over a set number of rounds wins.

A woodworker named Nick Venables was a self-taught domino artist who developed a method of creating elaborate, 3-D structures using the tools in his grandmother’s garage. The tools included a drill press, radial arm saw, scroll saw, belt sander and welder. Eventually, he developed a system for arranging these tools on his workbench so they would allow him to cut and shape pieces as he moved them along the domino line. This system enabled him to produce a wide variety of domino designs, even some with multiple levels.

When Hevesh is putting together her larger installations, it can take several nail-biting minutes for each domino to fall in the correct order. Her process involves making test versions of each part and filming them in slow motion, which enables her to make precise corrections. She has worked on projects involving hundreds of thousands of dominoes and helped set a Guinness World Record for the most dominoes in a circular arrangement.

In the early days of risk analysis, some researchers were concerned that the physical impact of domino accidents may be underestimated. They have since developed a systematic approach to quantitative assessment of domino effects, based on the assessment of accident propagation-escalation vectors.

Domino accidents are characterized by their rapid spread and the resulting chain reaction of events, which can lead to catastrophic failure of the system under study. Because of this, early assessments of their risk have been limited to fire and explosion accidents. In the future, it is important that the risk of such incidents be considered in conjunction with a wider range of domino accidents, including vapor cloud explosions. For example, if an explosive event occurs in a gas pipeline network and it is determined that the vapor clouds are not adequately contained, the entire network could be exposed to a potentially lethal explosion.