The Basics of Dominoes


A domino is a small, flat rectangular block used as a gaming object. Also called bones, cards, men, pieces or stones, dominoes are often arranged in lines and angular patterns to form complex structures. Each domino features a central line that divides it visually into two parts, each bearing from one to six dots or pips. A domino that has a single pips is considered to be a part of the suit of six; those that have two pips are members of the suit of threes. A domino that has no pips is called a blank or a zero.

A domino can be played with either hands, and can be manipulated to achieve various goals in games such as drawing or forming patterns of dots. Some of the most popular domino games are layout games, in which a player must in turn play a domino so that its ends touch other tiles to create chains that gradually increase in length. The player continues to play dominoes until all of them have been covered or the player cannot continue to play.

Dominoes are commonly made from a polymer, such as plastic or epoxy resin. However, a number of different natural materials are also used to make dominoes, including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory and a dark hardwood such as ebony, with black or white inlaid pips. Sets made from these types of materials tend to be more expensive than those from polymer materials.

The physics of dominoes is quite simple: They have inertia, which means that they resist motion when no outside force is acting on them. A tiny nudge, such as a finger or a pebble sliding across the surface of a table, is all it takes to break this inertia and start the chain reaction that causes domino after domino to fall. As each domino falls, it releases a burst of potential energy that converts into kinetic energy as it slides over and hits the next domino, which then becomes a catalyst for more dominoes to fall. This process is similar to the firing of a neuron in the body, which can only travel at a certain speed without loss of energy and in a specific direction.

Using dominoes to create structures requires careful planning and attention to detail. Hevesh creates test versions of each piece she plans to build, and films them in slow motion to be sure that the pieces fit together correctly and that they work properly. Once she has a working model, she begins to build the actual installation. She focuses on building the largest 3-D sections first, then adds flat arrangements and finally lines of dominoes that connect all the sections together. This approach allows her to make precise corrections if something isn’t working as it should. She works to achieve a sense of balance and proportion in her designs, and her installations often feature the same colors and themes.