Domino is a small, rectangular block of wood or other rigid material used as a gaming object. The term is also applied to a system of interlocking parts or a series of events that are linked in some way but not necessarily predictable. A domino game can involve a single player or many players, in which case the goal is to create a chain reaction that results in the domino falling and then each subsequent domino being knocked over. Dominoes are also used to create art and can be stacked in long lines to form 3D structures such as towers or pyramids.
The first domino was laid down by the Italian monk and Christian philosopher Fra Luca Bartolomeo de’ Conti in 1284, though the concept had existed earlier. The game became popular in Europe and spread from there to Asia. Today, domino is a beloved pastime worldwide and is enjoyed by people of all ages.
Physicist Stephen Morris explains how a domino works: “When you stand a domino up, it has potential energy stored in its upright position, thanks to gravity.” But when the first domino falls over, much of that potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, the energy of motion. Some of that energy is transmitted to the next domino, providing the push needed to knock it over. And so on, until all the dominoes have fallen.”
Lily Hevesh was just 9 years old when she started playing with her grandparents’ classic 28-piece domino set. She loved setting up a straight or curved line, flicking the first domino and watching it fall one piece at a time. Now, at 20, she is a professional domino artist, creating mind-blowing setups for movies and other events. Hevesh uses a version of the engineering-design process to plan her domino projects: she considers the theme and purpose, brainstorms images or words that relate, then works out how to build it.
Most domino sets feature 28 tiles, but larger ones exist for games involving several players or those who prefer to make lengthy domino chains. Larger sets are also able to be extended by adding ends with greater numbers of spots, increasing the number of possible combinations and thus pieces. The most common extended sets are double-nine (55 tiles) and double-12 (91 tiles).