Dominoes are the small rectangular blocks that make up a set used to play a variety of games. A domino has one side that is marked with an arrangement of dots, or pips, similar to those found on a die and another side that is blank or identically patterned. A typical domino set contains 28 pieces. Some of the most common domino games involve blocking or scoring, while others are adaptations of card games. Dominoes are also used to learn math and strategy.
The first domino to fall in a game sets the pace for the rest of the cascade. In physics, this phenomenon is called the “domino effect.” When you watch a line of dominoes tumble down in a neat sequence, it can be mesmerizing to see how the dominoes are arranged and the exact force that causes them to collapse. But what’s behind this beautiful symmetry? In the video below, a domino artist explains how the domino effect works.
Lily Hevesh started collecting dominoes as a kid, and she soon started creating her own domino setups. At age 10, she began posting videos of her creations online, and by age 20, she was a professional domino artist. She’s created mind-blowing domino installations and has even helped set the record for the most dominoes toppled in a circular arrangement.
Hevesh says the key to her amazing designs is understanding the laws of physics. The force of gravity is especially important for dominoes, as it’s what makes them tumble. She starts by considering the theme or purpose of an installation. Then, she brainstorms images or words that would fit with that theme. From there, she creates a plan for how to achieve her desired effects.
When you start a domino installation, you need to make sure each section works properly before adding it to the larger layout. Hevesh usually tests out each part of her designs before bringing them together. She also uses slow-motion video to check for any errors or flaws that may pop up as she’s constructing the bigger dominoes.
Once she’s ready to put the entire setup together, Hevesh starts placing the dominoes. She places them carefully, making sure to align them correctly and avoid any gaps. Once she’s satisfied with the results, she can begin bringing in the bigger dominoes. Her larger 3-D sections go up first, followed by flat arrangements and then lines of dominoes.
Then comes the fun part—knocking them all down! The physics of dominoes is a lot like the physics of a nerve impulse. When you knock over the first domino, it releases energy that’s transferred to other dominoes, causing them to tumble. The pulse continues to move down the chain until all the dominoes have fallen. Watch the video below to see a stunning example of the domino effect in action.