Domino is a small rectangular block with a number of dots resembling those on dice, used to mark a course or path in a game. It is also used to describe a person who leads a group of people into a wrong direction or into self-destructive behavior. A domino effect is the theory that one change in a situation will trigger a chain reaction, with each new behavior leading to the next, until a desired result is achieved.
The first dominoes were probably made of clay or terra-cotta, but the modern set is typically made of polymer material such as plastic, ceramic, or resin. Many are painted with bright colors or graphics, while others are glazed to look like stone. There are also sets made from woods, including ebony and black walnut; metals (e.g. brass or pewter); and even frosted glass.
Most domino games are based on positioning one domino edge to edge against another in such a way that the two ends of the line show identical numbers or form some specified total. Players then play tiles into the layout in turn, each trying to position their tile so that it will touch or cover as much of the opposing player’s lines as possible. A player who successfully completes a domino chain is said to “stitch up the ends”.
Lily Hevesh, 20, was fascinated by the 28-piece set of dominoes her grandparents had, and began setting them up in straight or curved lines. She posted videos of her creations on YouTube, and before long she had more than 2 million subscribers. Now, she creates stunning domino setups for movies, TV shows, and events—including the album launch for Katy Perry.
In addition to blocking and scoring games, there are a variety of domino art forms. These include creating a grid that forms pictures when the dominoes fall, and 3D structures such as towers and pyramids. Other popular domino arts involve decorating or painting the edges of a tile, and adding decorative elements such as buttons, beads, or lace.
The origin of the word domino is obscure, but it appears to have been derived from both English and French. The early sense of the word denoted a long hooded robe worn with a mask at a masquerade or carnival. The playing piece resembled this garment, with its contrasting black ebony against white surplice.
The physics of the domino effect is explained by the fact that each time a domino is stood upright it is lifted against the force of gravity. This gives the domino potential energy, and when it falls, most of this potential is converted into kinetic energy, which causes the next domino to fall. Physicist Stephen Morris describes it this way: “When a domino is standing up, it has potential energy that can be released by gravity when it falls.” This concept applies to other kinds of change as well—the tinkering in our lives that results in more frequent exercise or less sedentary leisure activities, for example.