Do you want to be part of a fastidious team who are building something amazing and/or do you like logic circuits and binary computing? I need people from both categories to help with a ridiculous project: to build the biggest domino computer ever.
A “Domino Computer” is exactly that: a computer made out of chains of dominoes. Knocking over one domino sends a signal racing along the chain, just like current flows down a wire, and then interacting lines of dominoes can manipulate the signal in exactly the same way the circuit components do. It’s possible to build the domino equivalent of a transistor, for example.
Here’s a quick video of me demonstrating the concept:
This is a ambitious concept that I’ve been wanting to do for ages. It finally become possible through the support of the Manchester Science Festival. Here’s the event listing on their website:
This is a project that I cannot do by myself. I’m going to need a big team of enthusiastic volunteers. I need people who are:
- Good at balancing a lot of dominoes and maybe good at organising other people who are balancing lots of dominoes
- Happy to talk to the general public and communicate maths to them
- Able to co-ordinate ridiculous projects and lead a team
- Masters of logic gates and able to refine a circuit design
You only need to be in one category to help out! We hope to have loads of helpers there on the actual weekend in Manchester (27 and 28 October 2012), fewer people along for the planning weekend (15 and 16 September) and then some people who are only involved online.
For now, I need volunteers in three different categories. You can be involved in as many of the categories as you want! I’ve outlined them below. There are also a few additional aspects of the project that we’re working on (mainly regarding how the public will get to see and interact with the Domino Computer), so there will be more details to follow.
If you’re interested in being involved, please send me an email as an expression of interest: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll be getting most of the team in place for the planning weekend and then they’re be another push for building volunteers in the lead-up to the actual event.
I can think of so few things that could possibly go wrong…
1] DOMINO BUILDERS
We will need to put a lot of dominoes in very exact positions and we’re working out exactly how to do this. We may use markings on the floor or we may use templates that dominoes can be put in and then the template lifted up and away. Anyhow, if you fancy spending a day or two placing dominoes, then we need people for the 27 and/or 28 October to be in Manchester to help us build this thing. You’ll have the option to come and see my other shows for free and be involved in general Sci Fest fun and drinks as well. No mathsy-knowledge is required to do this.
2] DOMINO COORDINATORS
There will need to be a few people who can help the actual logistics of getting the thing built and running it. Along with a few other side maths-communication projects which will need people to run them. For any of these, you’ll need to understand how the domino circuit works and also be able to help putting dominoes in place. You’ll be needed for the weekend 27/28 October for the final build and preferably the testing weekend inManchester on the 15/16 September as well. Plus the standard bonuses of to coming and see my other shows for free and be involved in general Sci Fest fun and drinks.
3] DOMINO DESIGNERS
I’ve already designed my own circuit for the binary half-adder which is a custom circuit to work well in dominoes and not just stand-alone domino XOR and AND gates put together. However, to scale it up to a full adder, I’ve just mashed the half-adders together and I suspect we could do something a bit smarter if we designed a domino full-adder from scratch. Plus there are all sorts of timing issues with where the domino signal is at different times. One plan is to use a timing-line of dominoes, a bit like a processor clock. TL;DR: there’s still a lot of design work to be done. I plan to form an on-line mailing list where we can discuss ideas and design the circuits. We’ll then have the planning weekend on the 15/16 to try them, and maybe a gathering in London as well. You can be involved in this purely online, but you’re obviously welcome to any of the physical gatherings or the final running at the Manchester Science Festival.