How Do Dominoes Fall?


A small rectangular block of wood or plastic, bearing an arrangement of dots resembling those on dice and used as a game piece. A person playing a domino game scores by laying a domino end to end against another (usually a double) such that their touching ends form a line or some specified total, and the chain of dominoes then falls in sequence. A game played with dominoes may have several rules governing the placement of tiles, the sequence of play, or scoring.

Hevesh has worked on team projects involving more than 300,000 dominoes and helped set a Guinness world record in circular domino arrangements of 76,017 dominos. But it’s not just the intricate designs that make Hevesh’s work so impressive – it’s also the fact that each domino is able to fall according to laws of physics. “Gravity is the main factor,” she explains. “When you set up a domino, it’s standing right there until you knock it over.” The force of gravity pulls the first domino toward Earth and, when this happens, all of the potential energy that was stored in the piece is converted to kinetic energy, which then triggers the next domino to topple.

Physicist Stephen Morris agrees that potential energy is key for dominoes. He explains that when a domino is upright, it resists motion because no outside forces are pushing or pulling on it. But when a player places a domino, it tips over and its potential energy is converted to kinetic energy that pushes on the next domino, which then tippers over and so on.

It’s this chain reaction, or the domino effect, that Hevesh focuses on when creating her masterpieces. “I try to get them to fall naturally,” she says. “When I’m done with my construction, I want them to be in a rhythm.” That’s why she takes the time to carefully plan out her designs before setting them up.

Hevesh works on a variety of artistic domino constructions, including straight lines, curved lines that create pictures, and grids that form different shapes when they fall. She has even designed 3-D structures like towers and pyramids. She’s also consulted on several projects that involve domino art, helping to design the tracks that the dominoes are placed on and calculating how many pieces are needed for each track.

In a business context, the Domino Effect can refer to a company’s ability to take advantage of customer feedback in order to improve products and services. For example, in 2010, when Domino’s faced criticism from customers about the speed and quality of their pizza delivery service, former CEO David Brandon made a point to listen to employees to understand what problems they were facing. He then put in place new training programs, relaxed the dress code, and made changes to their corporate culture based on the feedback that was received. These improvements, and the company’s commitment to keeping its core values in mind, helped turn things around for Domino’s.