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Dominoes Use Friction to Topple Over

By: Yi Qi

Dominoes are a nice to play with, but if you try and figure out exactly how they move it’s not as easy. Dominoes are an example of a chain reaction, which is when something falls and causes everything else to do the same.

“It’s a problem that is so natural. Everybody plays with dominoes,” says David Cantor, a researcher at Polytechnique Montréal in Quebec, Canada. The dominoes falling down is caused by friction working with gravity. Friction which is a force that rubs them together and gravity is a force that makes thing drop. It creates what is called a chain reaction, where if one thing topples over all the others would go right along with it.

Dominoes are fun to use with a friend, and they are also fun to study with a friend. That’s what Cantor did. He found a partner named Kajetan Wojtacki, who is a physicist that works at the Institute of Fundamental Technological Research.

A domino would slide against the domino neighbor after they hit each other, losing some speed due to the friction. However, for the flip side, dominoes can move faster with the rough surface and movement. If there's less friction at the domino’s bottom, its base can slip out from underneath, and the domino will lose some of its forward momentum.

The dominoes game was invented by the Song Dynasty in China by Zhou Mi who lived from 1232 to 1298. The word "domino" is most likely to be translated from the Latin dominus. Western dominoes were first seen in the 18th century in Italy and France. They were introduced to England by French jailers. They were mostly use for playing position games.

When building dominoes, carefulness is the number one point, since if you make one tiny movement and tip something over, everything comes down with it.

“On smooth, low-friction hardwood, each domino appeared to backslide as it fell – in contrast to high-friction felt, where the bottom of each domino largely stayed in place. On low-friction hardwood, a domino struck its neighbour further down, slightly lowering the speed of the wavefront.,” said Destin Sandlin.

Dominos use gravity to fall, but what if there was no gravity?


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