Domino is a game in which players place domino pieces edge to edge against one another so that their adjacent faces match either identically or form a specified total. The traditional domino set contains 28 tiles, with each domino having one to six pips or dots on each end and blank ends that have no spots (known as the zero suit). There are many games played using these pieces, which typically fall into two categories: positional games and blockage or scoring games.
Dominoes have fascinated humans for centuries, with some of the earliest references appearing in written sources in Europe around 1750. The word “domino” itself may be derived from an earlier sense of the Latin term domini, which meant a long hooded cloak worn with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade. The European domino sets of that time were often made with contrasting black and ivory pieces, reflecting this early sense of the word.
The modern domino is usually made from plastic or some other polymer, although there are also sets made from marble, granite and soapstone; natural woods such as ebony and mahogany; and metals such as brass. These sets are generally more expensive than polymer ones, but they offer a more tactile and authentic feel. Historically, the most common dominoes were made from silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl, MOP), ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony. The pips were often inlaid or painted in a variety of colors, but the most popular color was still black.
When a domino is toppled, its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, and some of this energy travels to the next domino in the line, giving it the push needed to cause it to fall. This process continues down the line, with each falling domino triggering the next to topple and so on.
Professional domino artist Lily Hevesh builds mind-blowing domino setups for movies, TV shows and events, including an album launch for Katy Perry. Hevesh has also created a series of YouTube videos documenting her creation of large, complex domino reactions and effects.
Hevesh uses a version of the engineering-design process to create her installations, which can take hours to build and even longer to play. She starts by considering the theme or purpose of her design, brainstorming images and words that may be relevant.
Hevesh has worked on projects involving up to 300,000 dominoes, but she’s also worked on smaller projects for her YouTube videos. No matter the size of her setups, Hevesh says there’s one physical phenomenon that is essential to their success: gravity. This force pulls a knocked-over domino toward the ground, sending it crashing into the next and setting off a chain reaction. In addition to the physics of dominoes, this process can be used to understand the function of nerve cells, or neurons. Like the fall of a domino, a nerve impulse moves at a constant speed and can only travel in one direction down an axon.