Posted on

How Dominoes Work

Dominoes are small rectangular blocks with a special arrangement of spots, resembling those on dice. When you set up a domino, and then flick the first one, it triggers a chain reaction that causes all the others to fall. Some people use dominoes to create works of art, and some play games with them. But, despite their simple construction, these little blocks of wood have a lot to teach us about how things work.

Physicist Stephen Morris explains that when you put a domino upright, it stores energy because it’s resisting the pull of gravity. But if you give it a nudge, much of that energy is converted to the kind of kinetic energy that pushes other objects around. This change from potential to kinetic energy is what causes a domino to topple. As Hevesh demonstrates in her video, this is why so many of the largest domino setups take a long time to put together. Hevesh builds each section of her setups separately, then connects them all together. And she’s careful to test each component individually before putting it all together. She also filming her test versions in slow motion allows her to make precise corrections when something doesn’t work as planned.

The word “domino” comes from the Latin dominica, meaning “flip.” It is a small rectangular block of wood or plastic with an identifying mark on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other. The identifying marks are usually a line or a ridge, but may be an arrangement of dots, resembling those on a die, instead.

When the Domino’s Pizza founder, Tom Monaghan, started his company in 1960 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, he focused on placing his franchises near college campuses. This strategy helped him attract a young clientele, which in turn fueled the company’s growth. By the early 1970s, Domino’s had over 200 locations. But then, in 1974, the company’s leadership changed dramatically. Under new owner Fred DeLuca, the company’s focus shifted from offering fast delivery to expanding into other areas of the food service industry.

Domino’s subsequently lost its edge, and in the late 1980s it began to lose market share to other fast-food companies. By 2004, it was more than $943 million in debt, and its stock had fallen sharply. Its future was uncertain. But if it wanted to survive, Domino’s needed to find a way to reverse this decline. And that meant re-thinking its strategy, and the most important change was in its leadership.