What is Domino?


Domino is a word that brings to mind the idea of cause and effect. A domino effect is one in which a single event causes several other events to happen, often in quick succession. Domino also refers to the game of dominoes, a game in which players place domino tiles on the table in an arrangement that will result in a chain reaction when the dominoes are “knocked” over. The word has a number of other meanings, though. It can describe someone who always has an eye for advantageous opportunities, and it is also a common name for a pizza delivery man or woman.

The word domino appears in English literature in the 1750s and is a variant of a French word, dominus, which was in turn a Latin translation of a Portuguese term for a long hooded cloak worn over a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade ball. The playing pieces in the game of domino are typically made from ebony blacks and ivory to emphasize their contrast with each other, a connection that may have brought to mind the hooded garment with its contrasting colors.

Like playing cards, the dominoes have identifying marks on one side and are blank or identically patterned on the other, which allows the players to match them with each other in a series of chains. The dominoes are usually numbered on each end, with the numbers starting at the lower edge (or apex) and counting up toward the higher edge (or peak). The first tile in the chain may be referred to as either the “sleeping” or the “active” domino, depending on whether its pips match those of other pieces already on the table.

Each player in a game of domino takes turns placing a domino tile on the table in such a way that it touches one end of an existing domino chain or, more commonly, a set of open ends. The player can then play a domino on the end of the chain that is touched by the tile, adding it to the growing domino chain.

When the players reach a point where they cannot play any more of their dominoes, one of them is awarded points for all the open ends of his or her remaining tiles. The winning player may earn the highest number of points in a given round, or may win by amassing the most points over a set number of rounds.

The most elaborate domino art involves arranging the tiles in linear, curved, or 3D structures, such as stacked walls and towers. The artists behind these creations use a combination of creativity, science, and patience to design their structures. Among the many rules and techniques used in domino art, one of the most crucial is gravity, which pulls each knocked-over domino toward Earth so that it can be played on by the next domino. The video “Domino Designer” below features a female artist who creates amazing designs using only the power of physics.