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When dominoes fall, how fast the row topples depends on friction

Dominoes may seem like just fun and games. But understanding how they topple? That’s some serious science.

“It’s a problem that is so natural. Everybody plays with dominoes,” says David Cantor. He’s a researcher at Polytechnique Montréal in Quebec, Canada. He has a background in civil engineering. So Cantor set out to study the blocks.

omino games are more fun with a buddy. Research on them would be too, Cantor thought. So he teamed up with a friend. That physicist, Kajetan Wojtacki, works at the Institute of Fundamental Technological Research. It’s part of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.

The pair used a computer to model a row of dominoes collapsing. It’s a chain reaction: Each falling domino topples into the next, then the next and so on. And the speed of that cascade depends on friction, they learned.

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