Dominoes are small, rectangular blocks used to play games of chance or skill. They can be stacked on end to create long lines or flat arrangements, and they can even be constructed into 3-D structures like towers and pyramids. Some children use them as toys that they can arrange and knock over. But what many people don’t realize is that domino is also a phrase that refers to a chain reaction, or the effect of one event causing subsequent events with greater–or sometimes catastrophic–consequences. Today’s WONDER of the Day explores how the domino effect is possible and how it can be applied to everyday life.
Physicist Stephen Morris says that when you set a domino upright, it stores some energy. This energy is based on its position, or potential energy, and when the domino falls, it converts to kinetic energy, or the energy of motion. This conversion of energy from potential to kinetic is what causes the domino effect.
When you play a domino game, each player takes a turn placing a domino on the edge of another one, with matching or contrasting colors or shapes. The resulting arrangement is called a layout, and it is used to form various scoring totals or to play positional games. In most games, each domino has two square ends that have numbers or other symbols on them. The values of the two ends are referred to as the rank and weight of the domino, respectively. The rank of a domino may be determined by the number of spots or other markings it has, its size, or whether it is a double, meaning that the opposite sides have identical values (e.g., a 6-6).
While it’s common to think of the Domino’s pizza franchise as a great example of the domino effect, the company actually got its start in the pizza business with an entirely different product: steel. In the late 1940s, Ypsilanti, Michigan-based Bethlehem Steel was facing significant challenges from competitors and needed to change in order to survive. In an effort to do that, CEO James E. Doyle reorganized the company. He placed an emphasis on expanding the business to include other types of products and services, and he hired Domino’s founder, Tom Monaghan, as president of the Domino’s Pizza division.
Once Domino’s had a new strategy and an experienced leader, it began to grow quickly. By the early 1980s, the company had nearly 200 locations. The chain is known for delivering pizza in 30 minutes or less, which has become a standard among fast-food chains.
Whether you’re writing a novel on the fly or planning out your plot before you start, the domino effect can be an important part of your story. Considering how an action or event affects the lives of your characters is a key way to make sure that your writing is engaging and realistic. And, whether you’re writing about a pizza chain or an industrial company, the domino effect can help you deliver an unforgettable tale.