A domino is a small rectangular block of wood or plastic, with one side bearing an arrangement of dots like those on dice. The other face is blank or patterned identically. Dominoes (also known as bones, cards, men or pieces) are normally twice as long as wide, so that they can be stacked on top of each other in many different ways. The end of each piece is typically marked with an arrangement of spots, or pips, that determines its value (from six to none or blank).
A set of dominoes has rules for a variety of games. Generally, each player has a turn at playing a domino. The player must place the domino so that its pips touch or “fit” with those on an adjacent domino in order to continue the chain. The game ends when all the dominoes have been played, or if the players decide that they cannot play any more. This is called “chipping out.”
The most common commercially available set of dominoes contains 28 tiles, and is usually referred to simply as a double-six set. Larger sets exist, and may be used for more elaborate domino constructions or to play longer domino games. Dominoes are often used to model the behavior of a system, or in a mathematical exercise to demonstrate certain concepts such as fractions and probability. A domino is also a good way to teach children basic counting and matching skills.
Lily Hevesh grew up with the classic 28-piece domino set her grandparents gave her. She began experimenting with domino art when she was 9, and now has over 2 million YouTube subscribers to her domino art channel, Hevesh5.
Dominoes are also a popular addition to event decorations and can be made into 3D structures. Some artists create curved lines, grids that form pictures, or stacked walls. Many of these creations require careful planning and calculation. Hevesh starts her work by planning each section of an installation on a flat surface, then tests it with a domino to see how it works before putting it together in the 3-D form.
A physicist at the University of Toronto, Stephen Morris, has written about the physical principles behind dominoes. He explains that when a domino is standing upright, it has potential energy because of its position. When the domino is then flipped over, much of this potential energy is converted to kinetic energy as it falls and causes other dominoes to fall.
The kinetic energy in the dominoes is what drives the chain reaction that occurs when they are placed on each other and then knocked over. However, this same physics can also be applied to any sort of group of objects that are moved together, such as cards or a deck of dice.