The Domino Effect


The domino (also called bones, cards, men, or pieces) is a flat thumb-sized rectangular block with one side bearing a pattern of dots or spots and the other blank. A complete set of dominoes contains 28 such tiles. Dominoes are used to play various games that resemble card or dice games. They may be stacked on end in lines or angular patterns. When the first domino in a line is tipped, it causes all of the others to tip over, resulting in complex and often mesmerizing designs. Dominoes are the inspiration for a common phrase, “the domino effect,” which refers to any action that causes events to cascade in ever-increasing complexity.

Many people begin their fascination with dominoes by stacking them on end in long, straight or curved lines. When they flick the first domino over, they are amazed at the way all the rest follow suit in a seemingly endless chain reaction. Some designers create spectacular displays that are used to advertise movies, TV shows and events—even for Domino’s pizza delivery! The best domino artists use science to achieve their amazing creations. Lily Hevesh, who started creating stunning domino projects at age 9, says that she relies on one physical phenomenon above all others: gravity. The force that pulls a falling domino toward the ground causes all of the other dominoes in the line to fall as well, sometimes taking several nail-biting minutes to complete.

In positional games, each player in turn plays a tile onto the table positioning it edge to edge against another domino. This creates a long chain of dominoes which builds in length until it reaches a point at which no further play can be made or the players have played all of their tiles. When this occurs, one or both players are declared winners and the winnings are awarded.

If a player has no tile to play, they draw from the boneyard, a pile of dominoes containing all the remaining unplayed tiles. They then choose the best tile from this pile to lay down next, ideally with a number that can be added to either end of an existing chain (called a double). If a player cannot add to an existing domino chain, they must “take” a sleeping tile, which must be placed perpendicular to the domino that was just played and touching its adjacent sides.

Dominoes are also used to play solitaire games that resemble card or dice games, such as the classic Concentration. These games are popular in some areas because they allow people to play card and dice games without breaking any religious or moral prohibitions.

The domino is also a metaphor in literature and film for a series of events that leads to a dramatic or catastrophic climax. The most effective stories follow a similar model, with scenes that build and build until they reach a tense or exciting climax.