The Basics of Dominoes


A domino is a small rectangular block used as a game object. They are usually made of wood or plastic and have a face marked with an arrangement of dots similar to those on dice. Traditionally, dominoes are arranged in long lines and when one is tipped over it causes the next domino to tip and so on. When all the dominoes have fallen, a very complex pattern can be created. These arrangements are sometimes called domino art and can be displayed in a variety of ways. There are also many games played with dominoes.

Dominoes have been used as toys since the 18th century. They are tipped over by the application of force, usually by a finger or a stick, and they create a cascading chain reaction. They are also used in school science classes to demonstrate the principles of gravity and simple mechanical systems.

When children stack dominoes in long rows, they can easily knock them over and begin a series of events that lead to much larger–and often catastrophic–consequences. This led to the popular term, “the domino effect,” which describes a situation in which a single event can trigger many other events, each more serious than the last.

Despite their small size, dominoes are surprisingly durable and can stand up to a lot of abuse. This makes them popular with children and adults alike, who enjoy playing games and creating designs with them. Some people even use dominoes in art and architecture.

While most dominoes are made of polymer, some are made of stone or metal. European-style dominoes have traditionally been made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or dark wood such as ebony. They usually have contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on the surface.

The most common dominoes are square with a flat top and a rounded side, but they can be rectangular, round, or even 3D, such as towers and pyramids. In addition to being available in a variety of colors, they can be made with different pips, etched symbols, or engraved words.

Creating an amazing domino design requires a great deal of precision. Hevesh spends hours planning each piece, testing them on the floor, and reworking them when necessary. Once she completes the initial layout, she builds the pieces in sections. She starts with the largest 3-D sections and then works on the smaller ones that connect them. As each section is ready, she tests it again to ensure that it falls as intended.

Hevesh has worked on projects involving up to 300,000 dominoes. Her largest installations take several nail-biting minutes to fall. The reason for the wait is that the first domino must be positioned just so to make the other parts of the structure fall properly. Hevesh says that one physical phenomenon is especially crucial to her creations: gravity.

A domino artist is an engineer by training and her method for making her mind-blowing setups reflects that. She starts with a theme or purpose for the piece and brainstorms images or words that could symbolize it. She then develops a schematic of the layout and calculates how many dominoes she will need to achieve her goal. Hevesh then uses tools like a drill press, radial arm saw, scroll saw, and belt sander to construct the individual components of the display. She then assembles them in the order that she wants them to fall.