How Dominoes Use the Principles of Science to Create Mind-Blowing Setups


The domino effect refers to the way that one small action can trigger a chain reaction that continues until finally, no one can stop it. While this concept has long been a popular metaphor in the field of sociology, a growing number of scientists are now using the principle to help explain how focusing energy on one thing can push other interests forward. In this video, watch as a professional domino artist describes how she creates her mind-blowing setups by leveraging the principles of science.

Lily Hevesh started collecting and playing with dominoes as a child, and now the 20-year-old creates intricate domino installations for events, movies, and even her YouTube channel. She follows a version of the engineering design process when creating her installations, and says one physical phenomenon is essential to her designs: gravity. When a domino is flicked, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, or the energy of motion (see Converting Energy). Some of this energy travels to the next domino, giving it a push that can knock it over. This energy then moves to the rest of the chain, providing enough momentum for each subsequent tile to be pushed over.

Dominoes have long been used as a tool for teaching children the principles of probability, but they are also a popular form of entertainment. Many people enjoy laying down a line of dominoes and watching them fall in a pattern, while others prefer to play games with them. A common game involves matching the ends of dominoes based on their total pip count. The smallest dominoes have only one or two dots, while the largest have up to six.

A game of dominoes is played by two or more players, and each player takes turns placing a domino on the table. Each domino must be positioned so that its two matching ends are adjacent. If a domino has a double, the other end must be placed perpendicular to it, unless the game rules state otherwise. The shape of the resulting snake-line then depends on the players’ choices and the limitations of the playing surface.

In a game of domino, each player tries to make the entire chain fall before the opponent does. The first player to do so wins the game. A common variation on the game is to place the smallest dominoes on the edge of the board, while the larger ones are positioned toward the center. This makes the game harder, as it is more difficult to surround a row of fewer dominoes.

In political speeches, the domino effect has become a popular analogy for the idea that one event may trigger a series of consequences, as if each domino was falling onto the next. This idiom gained popularity in the United States after President Eisenhower used it to explain how Communism would spread throughout Indochina if America did not act quickly. The phrase has since expanded to encompass any situation in which one small event can cause a large cascade of results, both good and bad.