Dominoes are an amazingly versatile game. They can be used to build straight or curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, or even 3D structures like towers and pyramids. But for many players, the greatest joy is to create mind-blowing domino art. Lily Hevesh started collecting dominoes at 9 years old and began creating her own amazing setups soon after. Her YouTube channel, Hevesh5, now has more than 2 million subscribers.
Hevesh says that she first considers the theme or purpose of her designs, then brainstorms images or words that will be incorporated into them. She also considers how she wants the pieces to look when they’re done, including what kind of shape or pattern they’ll take on once they start falling.
Then Hevesh starts planning out the design, using a piece of paper to sketch out her layout. She considers what kind of track she’ll be using (straight or curved, for example), how much space she’ll need for the tracks, and what kind of shapes she’ll create with the tracks. She also calculates how many dominoes she’ll need to complete her design.
When a domino is set up, it’s usually affixed to the table with one end touching another, or “glued.” The other end of the tile has a number that indicates which suit it belongs to: for instance, a tile with the number three might belong to the suit of triples, while a tile with a blank face might belong to the suit of zeroes. There are many different games that can be played with dominoes, but the most common are laying or scoring games. A player will lay a domino down, then place a tile on its edge that matches the number on the exposed ends of the previous domino. This causes the other ends of the new domino to match up with the other matching ends of the previous domino, causing the next domino in line to be pushed onto its edge and fall over. The process continues down the line until the entire domino chain is over.
Each domino has potential energy, which is a kind of stored energy. When a domino is placed on a table, its bottoms slip against the other tiles and the surface they’re sitting on, creating friction that converts some of the potential energy into kinetic energy, or the energy of motion. As each domino falls, it transfers some of this energy to the next one, allowing it to push over that tile, and so on down the line.
While modern domino sets are often made of polymers such as PVC or plastic, they can also be made from other materials such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), bone, ivory, or ebony. Some people prefer the traditional look of natural dominoes, which can be more durable and feel more substantial in the hand. They’re also typically more expensive than polymer versions. However, some people believe that the use of these natural materials is more environmentally responsible than using synthetic products.