How to Make a Domino Display

A domino is a flat, thumbsized rectangular block that has two parts, each bearing from one to six pips or dots: 28 such pieces form a complete set. A game played with such blocks, where players match the ends of a pair and then lay them down in lines and angular patterns, can be exciting, educational, or simply fun.

Dominoes have a long history in the West, but they also are popular in many parts of the world. There are numerous games that can be played with a domino set; some involve blocking or scoring and others require skill in arranging the tiles. For example, the traditional British game of Draw uses a standard double-twelve set (91 tiles) and four players. The most common domino games in the West use a standard or double-six set and are of the blocking type.

The most spectacular domino effects are those that occur when an incredibly elaborate lineup of hundreds or thousands of dominoes is carefully set up, then tipped ever-so-slightly with the touch of just one finger. Such domino constructions are often featured on television and in competitions where domino builders compete to create the most complex domino reaction before a live audience.

In the past, Nick Hevesh, a domino artist, worked on these types of projects for a living. But when he began to think about how to make his creations more lifelike, Hevesh realized that the laws of physics would be the key to making them work.

Hevesh says that the key is gravity. When a domino is standing upright, it stores energy in its shape. But when a player knocks it over, the energy is transformed into kinetic energy and that causes the next domino to fall and so on down the line.

When Hevesh designs her largest, most complicated domino arrangements, she begins with flat arrangements on the floor and then adds lines of dominoes that connect those sections together. She then makes test versions of each section and films them in slow motion to correct any problems that might arise. Finally, she assembles the whole setup and lets the dominoes fall according to the laws of physics.

If you want to create a domino display of your own, start by making a drawing on paper of the layout of your design. Then mark where you’ll place each domino and sketch arrows showing the direction in which you want each row or column to go. Hevesh also recommends testing the sequence of your design by putting down just one domino and then touching it lightly with your finger. Observe what happens, then adjust your plan accordingly. You can even play a domino game with your friends by creating your own rules and trying out different strategies for winning. You might find that you have a natural gift for domino design! Or perhaps you’ll just enjoy seeing the impressive domino effects that other people can create.