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The Art of Domino Setups

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Dominoes are one of the oldest tools for game play and entertainment. Like playing cards or dice, a domino set provides the foundation for a large number of different games and tests of skill. And, just as the act of building a domino chain can be captivating in its own right, the practice of creating mind-blowing domino setups has become a form of art. When accomplished, a display of hundreds or thousands of dominoes carefully arranged can be brought to spectacular life with the nudge of just one.

Dominoes, which are also known as bone pieces, men, or little white pieces, are rectangular blocks made of rigid material such as wood, plastic, or bone. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colors and are usually marked with an arrangement of dots, called pips, on one side, and are blank or identically patterned on the other. Some of the pips have numbers, while others are colored squares. Depending on the type of domino and the rules of the game, the pips can represent points, moves in the game, or the direction that players should move next.

The most common domino sets have a maximum of 24 pips on each end. Some of the larger domino sets, such as double-nine (55 tiles) and double-twelve (91 tiles), have “extended” ends, with more pips than on the regular ends. This increase in the number of pips on each end allows for more combinations of unique ends and thus, more dominoes.

When a player places a domino on the table, it must be positioned so that its two matching ends are adjacent and touching — a one’s touch one’s, or a two’s touch two’s. If the exposed pips on both ends add up to any number, the player is awarded that amount of points. The first player to reach the target score wins the game.

Hevesh is a professional domino artist who creates stunning setups for movies, TV shows, and events — including a Katy Perry album release party. When creating her largest installations, Hevesh spends days working on the layout of the entire structure. She uses a variation of the engineering-design process when constructing a new domino setup, and once she’s satisfied with the design, the only thing left to do is wait for it all to fall in place.

When a domino is knocked over, the potential energy of the piece that fell converts to kinetic energy, giving the next domino a push to start its own chain reaction. That energy travels along the domino chain until it’s all over. When Hevesh’s massive creations begin to tumble, it can take several nail-biting minutes for the dominoes to fall in place. This is because the force needed to push a very large, heavy domino is far greater than the force required to push a much smaller, lighter domino. This is a fundamental law of physics that applies to all types of physical objects.

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