Self Righting Domino Sculpture

What I find frustrating about domino toppling is its ephemeral nature. If only the dominoes could stand themselves up again, you could topple them over and over. Los Angeles artist Karl Lautman solved this problem a few years ago in his sculpture called Ouroborus.

I blogged last week about how microcontrollers like Arduino and Basic Stamp are changing the way sculptors use computers to create works. In Ouroborus, each domino is connected to a solenoid beneath it via a couple of polyester strands. When the domino falls over, it lifts the solenoid's plunger a bit. When the solenoid is energized (under microncontroller control), it pulls the plunger back down, yanking the domino back up. I've attached a drawing of the domino hardware. Complete build notes here (PDF)


  1. I just read the article about having to fake religion and misread the title of this as “Self Righteous Domino Sculpture.”

  2. hey bill! while this project could be done with an arduino or basic stamp, i’d like to give a shoutout for the ++ geek points of using an FPGA (this is what was actually used in this project). when timing counts, nothing beats dedicated silicon :)

  3. Just started re-reading Douglas Hofstader’s ‘I am a strange loop’. Just finished reading the bit in the Chapter 3 about the ‘domino chainium’ fixed program computer. Cool to see someone got it working for reals!

  4. But…but…but, couldn’t that be done with ordinary clockwork? I would love to see a wooden clockwork doing this with a window where you can watch the gears.

  5. I would like to see some kind of complicated multileveled domino sculpture with magnetised dominoes so when the row below starts toppling the magnets right the row above. It would likely be near impossible, but cooler than anything that is electrified.

Comments are closed.