What is Domino?


Domino is a game played with small rectangular blocks of material that have numbers and dots on them. Each domino has an identity-bearing face that is either blank or identically patterned on the other side, and an arrangement of spots, or “pips,” like those found on a die, except that some of the squares are blank (indicated in the listing below by a zero). The number of pips determines whether the domino is one to start a line of dominoes (one’s touch ones) or is used as a part of a larger structure (five’s touch fives).

Domino games are played throughout the world, and domino sets can be made from any number of materials including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (“mother of pearl”), ivory, dark hardwoods such as ebony, marble, soapstone, metals, ceramic clay, and even frosted glass. Traditionally, most dominoes are constructed from a mixture of these materials, with the top half thickness in mother of pearl and ivory or a darker wood such as ebony, and the bottom half thickness in a contrasting color such as black.

The first thing a player must do is create a line of dominoes by placing a domino edge to edge against another in such a way that the exposed ends match—one’s touching one’s, five’s touching five’s, and so on. Each time a player places a domino, it adds to the growing line of dominoes and to the score. The winning player is the first to reach a specified total or finish the chain of dominoes.

Some players use the dominoes to play positional games that require a certain number of adjacent tiles showing the same number—for example, a 5-5 combination. Other players use them to play arithmetic games in which each domino must be placed based on the arithmetic properties of its pips, such as lines of tiles or tile halves.

Many of the most mind-blowing domino constructions are created by artist Hevesh, who works with a version of the engineering-design process to create them. She begins with a theme or purpose for the design, and then brainstorms images or words that might be relevant to it.

Dominoes are much more powerful than most of us realize—a domino can knock over something about one-and-a-half times its own size. University of British Columbia physics professor Lorne Whitehead demonstrated this in a 1983 video, in which he set up 13 dominoes and, by the simple act of tipping one domino ever so slightly, caused them to fall in a cascade of movement. The energy that was initially stored in the domino shifted to kinetic energy, or the energy of motion. The rest of the dominoes picked up this energy and continued moving, until they were all knocked over. This is known as the Domino Effect.