How Do Dominoes Work?


When it comes to creating incredible displays, domino artist Jennifer Dukes Lee knows how important it is to pay close attention to the details. She tests each section of her installations by filming them in slow motion to ensure that they work properly and then assembles the entire installation before it goes up.

She says one physical phenomenon is critical to her creations – and that’s gravity! She says a tiny nudge is all it takes to take a domino from standing still to being knocked over.

In fact, Morris explains that the energy stored in a domino can be amplified a billionfold by one more small nudge. This is called the “domino effect.”

The domino game originated in Italy in the early 18th century, and quickly spread across Europe, including Austria, Germany and France. Dominoes are rectangular pieces that have a line down their middle, dividing them into two squares, called ends. The ends may be blank or have a number of spots, called pips.

These pips can be different colors, or they can be arranged in other ways. Some domino sets are based on specific numbers of pips, such as a double-six set. These pips are usually written in Arabic numerals to make them easier to identify.

A standard domino set has 28 pieces that each have a value between one and six. The highest-value piece has six spots on each end, so that’s what we call a “double six.”

When a domino is knocked over, it slides against the other dominoes, causing them to slide against the surface on which they are placed, and then against the ground. This causes friction, which in turn releases some energy.

That energy is then available to push on the next dominoes. And that’s where the domino effect really starts to kick in.

It’s this process of pushing and pulling on each other that makes it so much easier to create complex displays like the ones Hevesh is able to achieve.

For example, when she’s setting up her most complicated installation, she works on the biggest 3-D sections first and then adds flat arrangements of dominoes to connect all of these pieces together.

As she’s assembling these sections, Hevesh takes advantage of scientific discoveries about the nature of gravity to make her work as smooth and efficient as possible. She says that one key factor is that the centers of gravity for a domino are very high – so a domino only needs to be slightly tipped forward before it falls.

Another essential ingredient is the power of momentum. It’s this force that can drive the dominoes into each other and set off a chain reaction.

In this way, dominoes can be used to make intricate displays – and they can also help people build new habits by triggering a cascade of small changes that lead to big changes over time.

The Domino Effect combines some of the best-known principles of human behavior, such as commitment and consistency. It’s the idea that if someone commits to something, even in small ways, they’re more likely to follow through on it because it fits into their overall self-image and they start to believe that it’s true. This, in turn, builds identity-based habits that lead to long-term success.