How Do Dominoes Work?

When you think of domino, it probably brings to mind a game where you set up one domino on its side or flat surface, flick it, and watch the rest of the line fall in a neat, precise chain reaction. There are many different games that can be played using this versatile gaming object, which is also known as a bone, piece, men, or stones. Its name may be derived from the fact that it was often made of bone or wood, but today it is typically molded from a plastic like polymer.

When a domino falls, it releases energy that travels through the system and causes the next domino to push toward the ground. Then, that domino releases more energy that travels to the next domino and so on. The process repeats itself over and over until the last domino is knocked over. This energy is called potential energy, and it is the same kind of energy that keeps your foot on the brake pedal of your car when you’re driving down the highway.

Lily Hevesh started playing with dominoes at age 9, when her grandparents gave her their classic 28-piece set. She loved the feeling of setting up a straight or curved line and then flicking a domino, watching it fall in an impressive display of force. Today, the 20-year-old is a professional domino artist, creating mind-blowing domino installations for movies, TV shows, and events, including a Katy Perry album launch. She creates her masterpieces by following a version of the engineering-design process: considering the theme or purpose of an installation, brainstorming images and words that might be appropriate for it, and experimenting with shapes until she finds the right ones.

She also relies on the laws of physics to make her designs possible. Stephen Morris, a University of Toronto physicist, says the key is gravity: When you stand a domino upright, it has potential energy that is stored based on its position. When you knock it over, most of that energy converts to kinetic energy, or the energy of motion. Some of that energy is transmitted to the next domino, providing the push it needs to get moving and trigger a chain reaction.

Another key for Hevesh is her ability to listen to her customers. When she worked at Domino’s before becoming a domino artist, she learned that the company’s most important value was to “Champion Our Customers.” She says listening to her peers and customers is crucial for her business success.

Domino’s CEO, Don Meij, recently showed this value in action on an episode of the CBS show Undercover Boss. He was sent to one of the company’s busiest restaurants and to its delivery services, where he observed how employees handled and processed deliveries from customers. Then he took steps to address any issues he saw, helping the employees improve their performance. He also encouraged workers to take a more hands-on approach with their customers, and this led to many positive changes at the restaurant.