The Art of Domino

Domino is a game played with small rectangular tiles bearing from one to six pips or dots. Twenty-eight such tiles form a complete set. The tiles may be made of various materials, including ivory, bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl or MOP), and dark hardwoods such as ebony. The pips on European dominoes are inlaid or painted in black or white. Plastic dominoes with molded or stamped pips are also common.

In a domino game, a player takes turn playing a tile on the table and then laying it so that its pips match those of the existing dominoes on the table. The number of matching pips on a domino is called its “count.” The winning players are those who have the highest count. In some games, a player may not be able to play his or her next tile; if so, that player “chines out” and the turn passes to another player.

Most domino games can be played with a standard double-six set. However, larger sets of dominoes are available to increase the number of possible combinations of ends and thus of the possible tiles that may be laid. Typically, each progressively larger domino set increases the maximum number of pip spots on a single end by three; so that, for example, a double-nine set has 55 tiles, while a double-12 has 91.

Some of the most popular domino games are bidding games, blocking games, scoring games, and round games. Almost all of these are played with the same basic rules.

Many people are drawn to domino for its meditative nature, and they use the game as a way to relax or relieve stress. In fact, dominoes have been used in therapy programs for the physically disabled and mentally ill.

Hevesh, a domino artist who has built some of the world’s largest-ever domino setups, follows a version of the engineering-design process when creating her installations. She considers the theme and purpose of an installation, brainstorms images or words, and then begins to construct a design.

Throughout the process, she continually observes and reflects on what works or does not work. This is an important aspect of her creative process, as she tries to discover the best ways to achieve her artistic goals while respecting the laws of physics.

As the first domino falls, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, the energy of motion. Some of this energy is transmitted to the next domino, providing the push that causes it to fall. And so on, until the last domino falls. As a result of this energy transfer, each domino in the chain has a specific “inertia,” or tendency to resist motion. In order to overcome this inertia, the player must apply a small amount of force to each domino. A slight nudge is usually sufficient. When the force applied is greater than the inertia, the domino will fall. Moreover, each domino in the chain has varying amounts of energy, depending on its position.