The Domino Effect


Dominoes are one of the oldest tools for play. They are cousins of playing cards and can be used for a wide variety of games and tests of skill. Each domino has an identity-bearing side with a pattern of dots or “pips,” and a blank or identically-patterned side. The number of pips on a domino determines its value. A tile with a full set of pips is called a double and is worth more than a tile with no pips, which is called a single.

When a domino is set down, it triggers a chain reaction of other tiles to be added to the line. This is called the domino effect, because it demonstrates that when one thing leads to another, even the slightest push can cause great changes in the world around you. The effect is also seen in life, from a student winning a big game to the success of an organization.

Lily Hevesh, an artist who specializes in creating mind-blowing domino installations, uses the concept of the domino effect to inspire her art. She explains that her creation process starts with considering a theme or purpose for an installation, then brainstorming images or words that relate to this idea. From there, she tries to find a visual way of conveying this theme using dominos. She then goes about creating a layout, which is similar to an engineering-design process.

Once a layout is established, Hevesh begins to build the domino structure on a table. She then places her first domino, which she refers to as the “set,” the “down” or the “lead.” The next player must match one end of one of their dominoes to part of this first tile. If a player does not have a matching domino, they must draw from the unused tiles until they do.

Many domino games involve emptying a player’s hand while blocking their opponents’ play, while scoring games can be played with the counting of pips (or spots) in losing players’ hands. In addition, there are blocking games, such as Matador and Chicken Foot, and others that duplicate card games–all of which help children learn counting and math skills.

As a domino falls, its potential energy turns into kinetic energy, which is transmitted to the next domino and provides the push that knocks it over. This process continues, as each new domino carries the same amount of energy as the previous domino and transmits it to the next, until all the dominoes have fallen.

When a player draws more dominoes than they are entitled to in a given hand, this is referred to as an overdraw. The extra tiles are then passed to the player to their right, who may buy them for use later in the game. Depending on the game, these extra dominoes may be returned to the stock or put aside for future play. In addition, some games specify that a particular tile or domino may only be bought once in the hand.