The Domino Effect – How Physics Affects the Way Dominoes Fall

Domino, the cousin of playing cards, has a long history of use for games and entertainment. From professional domino competitions to the simple act of setting them up and knocking them over, they’re a popular way to engage with others, test patience, and challenge one’s skills.

But did you know that physics affects the way dominoes fall? And that you can harness this understanding to build more precise, elegant, and creative domino art? Lily Hevesh, a 20-year-old professional domino artist, has built up an online following for her intricate creations. Her YouTube channel features videos of her meticulously planning out a chain reaction of dominoes, ranging from straight and curved lines to grids that form pictures, and even 3D structures like towers and pyramids.

Her most famous work involves building a line of thousands of dominoes, all of which are designed to topple in a precisely controlled sequence with the nudge of only one. Hevesh’s impressive setups have garnered millions of views, and she often performs her domino creations in front of live audiences for an audience of devoted followers.

The word “domino” comes from the Latin domina, meaning “heavy.” A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block with a blank or matchingly patterned side and an arrangement of spots resembling those on dice. Usually, dominoes are played with a set of 28 tiles. Dominoes can be used to play a number of different games, most of which are variations on blocking and scoring. Some of these adaptations were originally created to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards.

What makes a domino — and a chain reaction — so powerful is its ability to change behavior in a predictable way. This is called the Domino Effect, and it’s been scientifically tested time and again. For example, a study published in 2012 found that when people decreased their sedentary leisure time, they automatically shifted other behaviors, such as eating less fat. It’s as if one shift naturally led to another, and this was seen over the course of a year for more than 300 participants.

As a result, it’s no surprise that the Domino Effect can be applied to all sorts of areas — from business to social sciences and more. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how the Domino Effect can be used to explain societal and business phenomena.

The physics of Domino Effect is complex, but in essence it’s about momentum. A domino has inertia, or the tendency to resist motion unless it is pushed or pulled. But if a domino is stood upright, it gains potential energy by being held against gravity. When you then push or pull on the domino, that potential energy is converted into kinetic energy — the energy of motion. When that kinetic energy builds up enough, the domino can no longer resist its own weight, and it falls. This causes the next domino to be pushed and so on, creating a chain reaction that eventually leads to the collapse of the entire arrangement.