Domino effect

A domino effect is a term used for the cumulative effect generated when a particular event triggers a chain of similar events.[1] This term is best known as a mechanical effect and is used as an analogy to a falling row of dominoes. It typically refers to a linked sequence of events where the time between successive events is relatively small. It can be used literally (an observed series of actual collisions) or metaphorically (causal linkages within systems such as global finance or politics). The term domino effect is used both to imply that an event is inevitable or highly likely (as it has already started to happen), and conversely to imply that an event is impossible or highly unlikely (the one domino left standing).

(Top) Dominoes are standing. (Bottom) Dominoes are in motion.

Demonstration of the effectEdit

The domino effect can easily be visualized by placing a row of dominoes upright, each separated by a small distance. Upon pushing the first domino, the next domino in line will be knocked over, and so on, thus firing a linear chain in which each domino's fall is triggered by the domino immediately preceding it. The effect is the same regardless of the length of the chain. The energy used in this chain reaction is the potential energy of the dominoes due to them being in a meta-stable state; when the first domino is toppled, the energy transferred by the fall is greater than the energy needed to knock over the following domino, and so on.

The domino effect is exploited in Rube Goldberg machines.

Appearances in mediaEdit

  • Domino Day – world record attempt for the highest number of toppling domino stones.

See alsoEdit

Relevant physical theory:

Mathematical theory

Political theory



  1. ^ "domino effect". The Free Dictionary. Farlex, Inc. Retrieved 29 September 2014.

Further readingEdit