Making a computer out of… dominoes?

When I mentioned carrying out computational processes with a room full of dominoes, I wasn’t kidding. Matt Parker is planning to build a domino computer at the Manchester Science Festival at the end of the month. The Manchester Science Festival blog has a nice writeup explaining the project.

Here’s a video of Matt explaining how a domino “AND” gate works (two chains of dominoes come in, and one goes out; the outgoing dominoes will fall only if both incoming chains do). Unfortunately it seems I can’t embed videos on this blog, at least not without giving wordpress some cash =(, so you’ll have to actually click that link to watch the video, but it’s totally worth it (trust me).

I wish I could go see it, but it’s a bit far for me. Any Math Less Traveled readers in the UK who can actually go watch the computer in action and report back?

About Brent

Associate Professor of Computer Science at Hendrix College. Functional programmer, mathematician, teacher, pianist, follower of Jesus.
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4 Responses to Making a computer out of… dominoes?

  1. Rafael says:

    Sounds really exciting! But also sounds like enourmous work to keep the whole circuitry in sync, since you need both input signals of any gate to always reach the gate at the same time.

    • Brent says:

      Yes, I’ve wondered about how timing is handled myself. I suppose it must be possible to measure fairly precisely the rate at which domino signals travel, though I don’t have a good intuition for whether the spacing between dominoes matters and so on. I look forward to reading more about the project and how timing issues are dealt with.

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