How Do Dominoes Work?


Domino, or dominoes, is a game played by one or more people with a set of rectangular blocks that are each marked with a number on each end. The number on each end of a domino indicates its rank or value, which may be determined by the number of dots or pips it has or by its shape or other distinguishing feature (such as whether it is a square or has a rounded corner). The most popular sets are double-six and double-nine, although larger ones exist for more than four players. Most games play with a cross-like pattern of the dominoes; each player takes turns playing tiles adjacent to each other, building up a chain or a pattern in which all four sides of the domino have a specific number.

The domino effect is the idea that when you make a change in your life, it has a ripple effect that causes a shift in related behaviors. For example, if you begin to spend less time on sedentary leisure activities, it might lead to changes in eating habits that result in you eating less fat.

Hevesh has created some incredible domino arrangements—including a Guinness World Record-breaking circular display of 76,017 dominoes—and she uses science to make them happen. For starters, she tests out each 3-D section of her installation before putting it together. She films each test in slow motion, allowing her to see exactly what is working and what needs to be tweaked.

But when it comes to her larger setups, Hevesh says there is only one thing that really makes them work: gravity. “When a domino is standing upright, it has potential energy because it is resisting the pull of gravity,” she explains. But once a domino falls, its potential energy is converted into kinetic energy that can then push on the next domino in the chain and cause it to fall.

As a result, Hevesh works carefully to build her setups in stages and to incorporate the right balance of force. She puts up the biggest 3-D sections first, then adds flat arrangements and finally lines of dominoes. She also pays attention to the timing of when each piece will fall. She knows that the dominoes need to be ready at just the right moment to hit each other just so.

But not all dominoes are created equal, and that’s what makes the game so fun. Even the same dominoes can be used in different ways to create new and interesting layouts. Some of these new layouts require the use of different colors, a strategy that can change the way the game is played. Other variations on the game involve placing dominoes in different types of patterns or using a special tile that has no number on it but can be placed to replace a matching piece during the course of a turn.