How Do Dominoes Fall?


Dominoes are small, rectangular blocks used for playing games. They are marked with an arrangement of spots, known as pips, on one side and blank or identically patterned on the other. These pips indicate the suit of the domino—for example, fours and threes are suits. The earliest known dominoes date from China in the 1300s, but they were developed much later in Europe to mimic the results of throwing two six-sided dice. They are one of the most widely used toys and can be found in homes, schools, and churches. Whether you’re a professional domino builder or just someone who enjoys setting up and then knocking over a line of dominoes, you’ve probably wondered how the pieces are able to fall so gracefully. In fact, the process is not only a matter of skill, but also one of physics.

Lily Hevesh first began playing with dominoes as a child, and she quickly became obsessed with building intricate designs. Her YouTube channel, Hevesh5, now has over 2 million subscribers who watch her create awe-inspiring projects, from curved lines to grids that form pictures when they fall, and even 3D structures such as towers and pyramids. Hevesh says that although there are many factors that contribute to a successful domino setup, the most important is gravity. Standing a domino upright stores energy, which is then converted to kinetic energy when the domino falls and sets off a chain reaction.

As a child, Hevesh would set up her dominoes in straight or curved lines and then flick them with her fingers. She’d then watch the entire line come crashing down, domino after domino. As she grew older, her creations became more elaborate and she began experimenting with different shapes. She has also worked on large-scale domino sets for movies, TV shows, and events such as a Katy Perry album launch.

The most popular domino sets sold in the United States are double-six and double-nine. These are small enough that most games can be played with just one pair of players, but larger sets are available for those wanting to play more advanced games. Most domino games involve blocking one’s opponents’ play or scoring points. A classic example is bergen or muggins, in which the goal is for each player to attach a domino from their hand to the end of those already on the table. Points are scored each time a domino is divisible by five or three.

Another common type of game involves forming a cross with the dominoes, either on the top or bottom of a table. The first player to accomplish this wins. This game requires a good eye and fast thinking, as each player must consider how the tiles will fit together as they are laid down. It is a great game for children and adults to learn the importance of planning and execution.