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How a Domino Artist Works With Gravity

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Domino is a generic gaming device—a set of small rectangular blocks, typically numbered with dots that resemble those on dice—that can be used to play many different games. We’ve all seen those domino constructions where the first piece is tipped ever-so-slightly and the rest fall in a beautiful cascade. A similar effect occurs when a neuron fires; it sends a signal down the line, and it’s almost impossible to stop it. This kind of signal is called a pulse, and it can affect the whole body or only parts of it.

Lily Hevesh, who makes a living as a professional domino artist, has built intricate domino installations that include curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, stacked walls, and 3D structures like towers and pyramids. She’s also worked on team projects involving more than 300,000 dominoes. Hevesh’s work relies on a number of factors, but one physical phenomenon is key: gravity. When Hevesh begins a new project, she makes test versions in her garage using a standard 28-piece set. She films them in slow motion so she can see how well the pieces fit together and make necessary adjustments.

Then she sets up the larger pieces—sometimes a few dozen dominoes at a time, and sometimes millions of them. And she waits. She’s been known to sit in front of a giant domino arrangement for hours, simply waiting for it to fall according to the laws of physics. Hevesh’s biggest projects take several nail-biting minutes to fall, but she knows the results will be worth the wait.

As she waits, Hevesh thinks about the project—how it should look when it’s finished, what challenges she may face, and how she can solve them. For example, if she needs to build a curved line, she’ll draw out a diagram with arrows pointing the way that each domino should go and how it will connect to the other pieces. She’ll then begin to lay down the pieces, starting with the largest ones, and work her way up to the smallest.

Hevesh has worked on a few projects that involved more than 500 million dominoes, and she says it’s important to remember what each one of those individual dominoes represents. “They are just little blocks, but they can have an amazing impact,” she says. “Even if you just knock over one, it will still change the whole thing.”

Writing Tip for Today

Domino effect comes into play in novel writing, too. Think of each scene in your story as a domino: it may seem insignificant on its own, but when you put the dominoes all together they can have a huge impact.

Whether you write your manuscript off the cuff or with a detailed outline, plotting a story ultimately comes down to one question: What happens next? Thinking about your scene dominoes in terms of the Domino Effect can help you plan your story structure to be as effective as possible.

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