How Dominoes Work


Dominoes are square, rectangular blocks of wood or plastic marked on one side with an arrangement of spots, called pips. They are similar to playing cards or dice and can be used for a variety of games. Dominoes are also used to create artistic designs, like straight or curved lines and grids that form pictures or stacked walls. Some artists use dominoes to make 3D structures, such as towers and pyramids. Artists who design domino art often follow a version of the engineering-design process, which involves brainstorming and prototyping to create a final product.

Domino is a popular family game that can be played by two or more people. Players place a domino on a table or other flat surface, then place another domino on top of it to start a chain reaction. The last domino to touch the first one falls over and causes the next domino to fall. The domino chain continues to grow until someone plays a tile that results in both ends of the chain showing the same number.

The word “domino” comes from the Latin verb “dominium,” which means rule or power. The word has many different meanings, including the name of an Italian city and a famous cathedral, and it may also refer to a type of hooded cloak worn with a mask at carnival season or during a masquerade. Its earliest sense, however, may have been that of a black domino that contrasted with a white surplice.

While it might seem like a simple, fun activity, there is actually a lot of science behind how dominoes work. University of Toronto physicist Stephen Morris explains that when a domino is stood up, it has potential energy or stored energy based on its position. When the domino is then knocked over, much of that energy converts to kinetic energy, or the energy of motion. Some of that energy is transmitted to the next domino, which gives it the push it needs to fall over as well. The rest of the energy continues to transmit from domino to domino, until all of it is converted and the chain collapses.

There are many different ways to play domino, but the most common are blocking and scoring games. There are also a few different variants of solitaire and trick-taking games. These games were once popular in certain areas to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards.

Another way to use the domino effect is in fiction writing. Whether you write your manuscript off the cuff or take time to plot out each chapter, the end result is the same: You want your reader to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.