Dominoes are black and white rectangular blocks that have been used for centuries to play games and create chain reactions. They are also known as bones, cards, men, tiles, stones or spinners and can be arranged in many ways. The most common type of domino set contains 28 pieces. Many people enjoy lining them up in long rows and then knocking them over one by one. What’s fascinating about domino is that it requires very little energy to cause a chain reaction that leads to the domino falling. Whether you’re playing a game of domino with friends or simply watching the chain unfold, you might be wondering how exactly a single domino can tip over so many others.
The answer has to do with the power of gravity. A domino has potential energy when it is standing upright because it is resisting the force of gravity. But when a domino is tipped over, the potential energy turns into kinetic energy that causes it to fall and trigger the next domino to fall. The process continues until the entire row of dominoes has fallen over. This is similar to the way a nuclear explosion or automobile accident can cause many more events, called domino effects, without any direct human intervention.
Physicists have been studying how dominoes work for over a century, but they’re still trying to understand what makes the pieces tick. They’re working to develop a model that will describe how the pieces form their own patterns and why some shapes are more stable than others. They’re also trying to figure out what gives some dominoes more power than others, and how that relates to their size, shape and arrangement.
Lily Hevesh, a professional woodworker who specializes in domino creations, started her fascination with the structures when she was a child. Her grandparents had a classic 28-piece domino set, and she loved arranging them in lines and then knocking them down. “It was so fun,” she says. “The whole thing was like magic.”
She learned to make dominoes with the tools in her grandmother’s garage, and she eventually became an expert. She also taught workshops in her home and created a domino book that teaches others how to create their own custom sets. She works on each project for weeks or months before assembling them, and she films the finished pieces to make sure they’re correct.
While Hevesh’s work is incredible, the true magic of a domino is its ability to inspire. She says that good dominoes are tasks that contribute to a larger goal and help you accomplish something bigger. A financial plan, for example, is a good domino that can have a positive impact on your life.
Unlike the classic 28-piece set, larger sets have more than one piece on each end. These extra pieces, called doubles, allow for more combinations of ends and more possible outcomes of the game. Dominoes are generally ranked by the number of spots, or pips, on each end, with a higher rank being a heavier domino with more pips than a lighter domino with less pips.