The Art of Dominoes


Dominoes, also known as tiles, bones, stones, tickets or spinners, are small, flat blocks of rigid material that are used as a game. They have numbers on their ends, and each tile can be arranged in any way possible according to rules.

A domino chain begins with one tile and gradually increases in length. The end of the chain showing a number is called a “tip.” A domino with pips on both ends is called a “double,” or “doublet.” Doubles can form pairs; if two pips of the same color pair, they are said to be “doubled.”

Most people play the traditional American game where players try to match the pips of the next domino in line. The resulting number is called the “bonus,” and the player who lays the most of these bonus dominoes wins.

In other games, the player’s goal is to create a series of dominoes that add up to a certain number. Often, this is done by collecting the most pairs of dominoes.

The number of pips on each domino determines how much value it has. A double-six is the heaviest domino, and a double-blank is the lightest.

When a domino falls, it can knock over another domino and cause it to fall as well, creating a cascading effect. This is a principle referred to as the “domino effect,” which can be used to explain many things, including how Communism spread during the Cold War.

Some dominoes can even tumble downward as they fall, making for an interesting display. That’s because gravity is a natural force that pulls dominoes down toward Earth, causing them to crash into each other.

Using the laws of physics, domino artist Jennifer Hevesh sets up elaborate displays that use thousands of dominoes to form intricate patterns. She tests each section of her designs before putting them up, so she can make sure they work as intended.

She films her test installations in slow-motion so she can make precise adjustments when needed. Once she has all of the sections of her domino installation working properly, she puts them together into a spectacular display.

But before Hevesh can let the first domino fall, she needs to nudge it just enough so that it tumbles over. That’s when the energy stored in the first domino becomes available to push on the next one.

In fact, Hevesh’s most elaborate domino creations take several nail-biting minutes to topple. That’s because she tries to build each of her intricate domino installations according to the laws of physics, which means that she lets them tumble in order to get the most out of their potential energy.

The law of physics is behind the dominoes’ falling ability, but it’s also responsible for other effects that help the dominoes fall. For example, gravity is a powerful force that can send a domino falling toward the surface of the ground, which causes it to crash into another domino and start a chain reaction.