The Domino Effect

Dominoes are a traditional game of chance. Each domino is a rectangle divided by a line that separates it into two squares called ends, and each end is either blank or has a number of spots–called pips–which make up its value. Most sets have one unique piece for each possible combination of pips from one to six. Other sets have more pieces or less pips.

In order to play the game, players stack the pieces on top of each other. If they make a mistake and put a wrong tile on top of the right one, they can take back their incorrect order and try again, using the same technique.

The rules are simple. Each player chooses a starting tile, and then the rest are placed on top of it. Once all the tiles are in place, the players flick a single domino. When it falls, the first domino creates a chain reaction that moves down the row. The momentum is such that a domino that falls ten times can reach the bottom of the pile.

According to physicist Stephen Morris, the way the dominos react when they fall is similar to a nerve impulse. Each domino has stored potential energy, and it takes a small nudge to push one of them past its tipping point.

As soon as a domino hits the ground, it sends out an electric signal that travels down the line of dominoes. The dominoes store the energy they gain from this initial push in the same way a neuron stores the energy it receives when it sends out an impulse to do something.

If all the dominoes that fall at the same time are stacked up against each other, then they all will move at the same speed and will follow the same path when they touch. But if one domino is knocked over, then it starts a chain reaction that pushes all of the remaining dominoes down.

This is called the domino effect. The physics behind it is pretty cool, and the effect has been used in everything from education to health care.

Besides being fun, the domino effect helps us understand how neurons function. The brain uses the same process to control muscle movements, heart rate, and other bodily functions.

The domino effect is also useful in learning how to develop new habits. The three rules are to break the new behavior down into smaller, more manageable steps; maintain momentum; and let it cascade to the next habit.

Start by experimenting with the domino effect yourself! If you have dominoes, try setting them up in a straight or curved line and flicking the first domino. You may find that you can get all the dominoes to fall when you flick one, or that they fall differently when you flick several at once.

If you don’t have dominoes, think about books or blocks or other objects that fall when you push them down, and try to build a fun, unique course for them to follow when they hit the ground.