If there is one thing that having the Internet in our lives has shown most clearly, it may be that anything you can think of as a hobby is also an obsession to a not-insignificant number of people. And so it is with dominoes.
A look around online reveals that there are a lot of people who are exceptionally good at using dominoes (“good” in the domino-sphere involves skill, persistence, and most of all patience), and they put in a tremendous amount of work in making some very elaborate setups. These virtuosos have gone far beyond the simple domino-line-across-the-table you probably built as a kid.
One very timely example is a Rube Goldberg–inspired contraption that re-enacts highlights from the story of the ongoing Jewish holiday of Passover: baby Moses in the basket, the parting of the Red Sea, the plague of blood, etc.:
But while this machine gets points for creativity and diversity of mediums, for pure domino expertise, it pales before some other works. This setup has a more positive spin on Egypt than the Exodus story, culminating in an enormous 3D pyramid:
Some other setups impress with an even greater number of tiles—like the 82,000 knocked in the beginning of this video, the most ever in a single spiral. (Note that toward the end of the video, this crew’s sponsors are spelled out, as you would expect, in dominoes.)
This cleverly recursive setup uses domino boxes as giant dominoes in its conclusion (along with a huge range of machines set off in various ways by falling tiles):
The idea of using toys to convey long chain reactions has also spread to a different kind of toy: the so-called “stick bombs.” These contraptions are made of long sequences of tongue depressor–like sticks woven together. The tension keeps them locked in a grid until one is nudged out. Since that first stick was under tension that is suddenly gone, it pops out suddenly, quickly removing the tension from the other sticks it was woven with. Then those others pop out, removing tension from still more sticks, passing the chain reaction of popping sticks down the entire grid. Subaru pitted a miniature version of one of its cars against the wave that swiftly moves along the stick bomb:
We all intuitively know that the laws of entropy demand that a shattered domino setup end up as a messy pile. Perhaps that’s what’s so compelling about seeing the process in reverse: imagining a world where omelettes turn into eggs, matches un-burn, and piles of dominoes self-assemble into buildings.
And lest you think that the domino masters are so good that they never mess up, their YouTube channels are in fact filled with “fails” videos that are enough to give you vicarious frustration: