How Dominoes Work


Dominoes are small, flat rectangular blocks of rigid material that are used as gaming objects. They are sometimes also called bones, men, pieces, or stones. Each domino has a specific arrangement of dots, or pips, on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other. Dominoes are most often made of wood, but they can be made from a variety of materials, including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, and ebony. The pips on the surface of each domino indicate its number, if any.

A player plays a domino by placing it on the table so that its open end matches one of the pips shown on the domino being played. Then, the player places a tile on top of it, matching its number with that of the previous tile in the line of play. The result is a chain of tiles that grows in length. Depending on the game being played, the lines of play can be either lengthwise or crosswise. In games where a domino has a spinner, the tile is played so that it shows its number on both ends of the line of play.

When the first domino is pushed down, its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, the energy of motion. Some of this kinetic energy is transferred to the next domino in the line, providing the push needed for that domino to fall as well. In this way, the energy continues to travel from one domino to the next until all of them have fallen.

Hevesh began playing with dominoes as a child, and she still loves them today. She creates mind-blowing domino setups for movies, TV shows, and events—including an album launch for pop star Katy Perry. Her YouTube channel, Hevesh5, has more than 2 million subscribers who enjoy her videos of awe-inducing domino art. Hevesh’s domino installations include straight and curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, and 3D structures like towers and pyramids.

When she begins planning one of her installations, Hevesh considers the theme or purpose and brainstorms images or words that might relate to it. Then she starts building the pieces. She always tests each section of an installation and films it in slow-motion to ensure that it works correctly. Once she has a working model, she moves on to the bigger 3-D sections and then to the lines of dominoes that connect all the sections together.

Hevesh’s approach to designing and building her magnificent creations is similar to how writers compose their novels. Whether they plot their stories on an informal basis off the cuff or take time with a carefully crafted outline, they all have to answer one important question: What happens next? The answers to this question must be clear and compelling. Just as a well-placed domino can cause a chain reaction, a story needs scenes that advance the hero toward or away from his goal.