The Power of Dominoes


Dominoes, the game of matching flat rectangular blocks with a variety of pips on their faces. This ancient game is still a popular one and is played in many countries around the world. The Chinese may have developed dominoes as early as the 12th century, and Eskimos have also long played this type of game.

The most common form of dominoes is the double-nine (55 tiles) set, but larger sets can be made with fewer or more pips. Most sets use a number of different colors of pips to distinguish the ends. Some large sets are even printed in Arabic numerals rather than using pips.

There are several variations of the game, including “5s-and-3s,” a variant in which players attach one domino to each end of a pair so that the sum of the two tiles is divisible by five or three. This is a popular strategy for team games, but it can be a tricky one to master.

In most domino games, each player is given a certain number of sets of tiles, and the goal is to match these to the same ends in such a way that the total number of pips on them is divisible by three. The first player to score the most points wins the game.

This principle is embodied in domino shows, where builders compete for the most complex and imaginative domino effect or reaction. But a domino’s ability to fall isn’t just fun; it’s also a metaphor for the power of cause and effect in our lives.

“When you push a domino over, gravity gets involved,” says Hevesh, who has created hundreds of elaborate displays and helped set a Guinness World Record for the most dominoes toppled in a circular arrangement: 76,017.

Hevesh uses a physical phenomenon called inertia to create her stunning displays, but gravity isn’t the only force at play. She also relies on another force that can be harnessed for a domino’s success: friction.

The first domino to fall, when the physics of gravity and friction come together, is actually the most powerful domino. It has the biggest potential energy in its system and can easily overpower any other domino that’s in the same position.

Moreover, because the dominoes have inertia and friction, they can resist movement when there’s nothing pushing or pulling on them. But a tiny nudge is enough to break the pattern and start a chain reaction.

It’s not just cause and effect that makes dominoes such a fascinating game: It’s also an incredible illustration of how narrative works. It’s the reason you see so many people creating cascading domino effects on TV and in the movies.

There are many examples of the domino effect in real life, too. When a person gets into a car accident, for example, it can have an unexpected domino effect on their life.

In the hospital, infections can have a similar domino effect. When a patient comes in with a fever, they’re more likely to develop a secondary infection, which can make them sicker and longer-lasting than the original illness.