Domino Theory

Here’s a video clip that dramatically illustrates an interesting and counterintuitive fact: a small domino can knock over a domino up to 50% bigger than itself. This means that this knocking-over can very quickly “scale up”.

How is this possible? The first domino in this video can’t weigh more than a gram, while the last one weighs a hundred pounds. The answer is that the energy released is put into the system when you stand the dominos up, and because dominos are tall and thin, they are “tippy”. All that’s needed is for each domino to release enough energy to get the next domino’s center of gravity shifted far enough that it is no longer over the footprint of its base.

This is rich in metaphoric and isomorphic possibility. What else might be “tippy”?

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  1. This makes me think of “preference cascade.” I first heard of it through Instapundit:

    The idea is that it seems like nobody wants to leave the party, until one person asks for their coat to leave, then suddenly everyone is ready to go. They all had a preference but did not want to express it since it did not appear to be shared; as soon as it was known to be shared, it became safe to express.

    Posted May 31, 2017 at 9:50 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Paul,

    Yes, preference cascades are a very real social phenomenon — and a very relevant concept at this “hinge” of history, I think.

    Posted May 31, 2017 at 10:08 pm | Permalink