A domino is a flat, thumb-sized rectangular block, bearing from one to six pips or dots on one face, and blank or identically patterned on the other. A set of 28 dominoes forms a complete domino game, and it is also possible to play several other games with dominoes. A domino can be used to construct a line or a shape, such as a circle, a triangle, an arch, a cross, or a squarish pyramid.
When the first domino is tipped ever-so-slightly and begins to fall, the rest follow in a rhythmic cascade that creates an incredible visual spectacle. This phenomenon is called the “domino effect.”
For some people, dominoes are more than just a fun way to pass the time. Some people use them to help learn numbers, letters, and words. Others play them to develop strategies for solving problems. A domino can even be used in math class to teach students how to add and subtract.
The word domino is derived from the Latin word dominica, meaning “a woman of the court.” The first known use of the term in English was around 1750, but it may have been used earlier in France. The game of domino is similar to the card game of poker, but the rules differ. Usually, a player must have all cards in his or her hand to place a tile; the value of a tile is determined by its adjacent numbers, and the winner is the player who has the most points at the end of the game.
Dominos can be made of a variety of materials, including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), ivory, and dark hardwoods such as ebony. In the past, sets were often carved in a pattern that contrasted ivory with black. Some of these sets are still available today, but they are generally much more expensive than modern plastic dominoes.
Physicist Stephen Morris says that the most important feature of a domino is its ability to store energy. He explains that when a domino is standing upright, it has potential energy because of its position. When the domino falls, however, that potential energy is converted into kinetic energy, which causes other dominoes to topple.
When you’re writing a novel, the “domino effect” can be a helpful tool for plotting your story. In fiction, each scene domino could represent a different piece of information or action that influences the next scene. In nonfiction, a scene domino might be an illustration that supports a particular point or argument.
An accomplished domino artist, Hevesh, has worked on projects that involve more than 300,000 dominoes. She has even set a Guinness World Record for the most dominoes toppled in a circular arrangement. Watch the video above to see her impressive work.