Dominoes and the Domino Effect

Domino is a flat, thumb-sized rectangular block bearing one to six spots or “pips” on each end. A domino is used as a gaming object in various games and can be stacked on end to form long lines. When one of these is tipped over, it causes the next domino in line to tip over, and so on, until all of them have fallen. Stacking them this way forms shapes like towers and pyramids or creates a map-like grid that can be used to play puzzles. In addition to games, Dominoes are also used in art projects.

A Domino Effect

Dominos can be a great way to demonstrate the power of the “domino effect,” a term that refers to a chain reaction that starts with one action and leads to many other changes. For example, if you cut back on your sedentary time, it might lead to healthier eating habits, which might lead to weight loss and other positive health outcomes. Similarly, if someone sets out to knock down a row of dominoes in a certain pattern, they can do it by starting with the first domino and nudging it over with their finger.

Lily Hevesh began collecting dominoes when she was 9 years old and learned to set them up in straight or curved lines before flicking the first one over. By the age of 14, she had a large collection and started posting videos of her creations on YouTube. Today, Hevesh, 20, is a professional domino artist who has worked on projects that involve more than 300,000 dominoes. She has even set a Guinness World Record for the largest domino arrangement, which took several nail-biting minutes to fall.

Hevesh cites one physical phenomenon in particular as essential to her success: gravity. When a domino is stood upright, it holds onto potential energy based on its position. Once a domino is tipped over, however, much of that energy is converted to kinetic energy, which causes the next domino in line to fall, and so on, until all the pieces have tumbled.

Another factor that makes dominoes so satisfying to play is their simple, linear construction. The number of spots on a domino can be limited to 28, which is enough for most games, but more extensive sets exist that have additional ends with increasing numbers of pips. A common extended set includes double-12, which has 91 tiles and is the most commonly used.

Whether you use dominoes to play games, create art, or just admire their beauty, these little rectangular blocks are a fascinating symbol of ingenuity and the power of the “domino effect.” And that’s something we could all learn from.