How Domino Actions Create Chain Reactions

Dominoes are a great way to teach kids how to count. They’re also a fun way to get kids in the kitchen to help with cooking and cleaning. But the best thing about dominoes is how they create a chain reaction. When one domino hits another, it can set off a whole series of actions like falling tiles, water ripples or even a pizza party! This is what makes domino action so important, and it’s something we should all practice every day. Admiral William H. McRaven said that “A single act, no matter how small, can have a ripple effect and make a difference in the world.” The same is true for domino actions. Just making your bed in the morning or putting a Tupperware bin back in the cupboard can have a domino effect of its own. Hevesh says that when she starts a project, she always tests the first domino to see what it will do on its own. This helps her adjust the project as needed before she begins laying it out. She works in 3-D sections and flat arrangements, and each section is filmed in slow motion so she can watch it fall and correct any problems.

In her spare time, Hevesh also makes her own domino sets for playing with friends. She’s made some that are incredibly intricate, including a circular layout with 76,017 dominoes that holds the Guinness Record for most dominoes in a circle. She says the key to creating these designs is understanding the laws of physics. “When you stand a domino upright, it stores potential energy based on its position,” explains Stephen Morris, a physicist at the University of Toronto. He adds that when a domino is knocked over, much of its potential energy is converted into kinetic energy as it falls, causing the next domino to push toward it.

Hevesh’s most ambitious creations take several nail-biting minutes for all the dominoes to fall, and she says that one physical phenomenon is particularly crucial: gravity. Gravity pulls a knocked-over domino down toward Earth, causing it to hit the next domino in its path and triggering the chain reaction that leads to the end of her domino art.

A domino is a rectangular, thumb-sized, flat tile that has either a blank face or numbers from one to six pips (or dots). The number of pips on each domino determines its rank and value. 28 such pieces make up a complete domino set. Dominoes are often used to play a variety of games, with players matching ends of pieces or arranging them in lines and angular patterns. The word domino appears in English around 1750, but it may derive from an earlier sense of a long, hooded garment worn with a mask or over a priest’s surplice at carnival season or a masquerade. A more likely source is the name of a tanner in Venice who developed the pieces with ebony blacks and ivory faces.