How Do Dominoes Work?


When a domino falls, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy. This kinetic energy then travels to the next domino, providing the push needed for it to fall. Then the process repeats itself until all of the dominoes are arranged in an orderly fashion and all the energy has been converted.

Lily Hevesh started playing with her grandparents’ classic 28-pack at age 9. Her fascination with the tiny blocks grew, and by age 10, she was creating mind-blowing domino setups that she would later post on YouTube. Now, at 20, Hevesh has 2 million subscribers on her channel and creates sets for movies, TV shows, and events like a music video launch for Katy Perry.

Dominoes are small rectangular wood or plastic blocks, each bearing a number of dots resembling those on dice. They are typically twice as long as they are wide, making them easy to stack and re-stack after use. Each domino features a line down the middle to divide it visually into two squares, called ends. The domino’s value is based on the number of dots or “pips” on each end. The most common type of domino has a value of six pips, while other variants have fewer or even no pips.

The game of domino began to appear in Europe in the early 18th century, spreading first from Italy and then France where it became a fad by the late 1700s. It appeared in England by the 1800s, purportedly brought there by French prisoners of war. The name, however, did not appear until 1771, when the word was recorded in a French dictionary. It earlier denoted a hooded garment worn together with a mask at a masquerade and may have inspired the game’s contrasting ebony black and ivory pieces.

In order to play a domino, players draw tiles from a bag and place them on the table so that all of the corresponding ends touch each other. Then, each player takes a turn placing a domino on the table such that its exposed edges either match (i.e., one’s touch ones) or form a specific total (i.e., a double-six). The winner is the first to reach this total or reach a predetermined number of points.

The Hevesh method is simple: Without instructions and expensive computer controlled equipment, Nick developed a technique using the tools already in his grandmother’s garage. A drill press, radial arm saw, scroll saw, belt sander and welder all crowded into the small space, but Hevesh found a way to use them all to make her creations. Hevesh makes test versions of each section of her larger installations before putting them together. By filming these tests in slow motion, she can adjust the settings and re-stack the tiles to ensure everything works correctly before beginning to build the full layout. This step-by-step approach is essential for her creative work. It’s also how she has managed to grow her business so quickly.