How Dominoes Work

Dominoes are a favorite toy of many children. They’re fun to stack up in long lines and then knock down. But have you ever wondered how these black and white rectangular pieces actually work? Today’s WONDER of the Day answers that question.

Dominoes have a wide range of uses, from games to building projects. They’re used in classrooms to teach children about sequencing, while other people use them to decorate their homes or landscapes. They’re even used in science experiments to demonstrate the domino effect. But the real power of a domino comes from its ability to spur other activities. Just like the triggering pulse of a neuron, a falling domino can generate energy that causes other activities to happen.

Lily Hevesh started playing with dominoes when she was 9. She would set them up in straight or curved lines and then flick them over. It was then that she realized the potential for dominoes to create something spectacular, which led her to start posting videos of her setups online. Now, Hevesh has over 2 million YouTube subscribers who watch her create mind-blowing domino installations.

Hevesh has perfected the art of creating these amazing setups by following a similar process to how an engineer designs a building. She starts by considering a theme or purpose for the installation she wants to make and then brainstorms images or words that might represent it. From there, she puts together a rough sketch of what she want the dominoes to look like. She then tests each section of the design on its own to make sure it works. If there are any problems, she goes back and makes changes before moving on to the next step.

After her test runs are complete, Hevesh starts putting the sections of the dominoes together. She begins with the biggest 3-D sections first, then adds in flat arrangements and lines of dominoes connecting them all together. She also films her setups in slow motion to help make any necessary adjustments if something doesn’t go as planned.

Throughout history, dominoes have been made from a variety of materials. The most popular domino sets in the United States are made of polymer clay, but sets have also been made from natural materials such as bone (either whole or sliced), silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory and dark hardwoods such as ebony. Other types of materials for dominoes include marble, granite and soapstone; metals such as brass or pewter; frosted glass; and ceramic clay.