How Dominoes Work


A domino is a small rectangular block with a line down the middle and either blank or marked with spots resembling those on dice. They are used to play games with rules that determine how the pieces can be matched and positioned to form sets. Most domino sets contain 28 pieces, although larger sets are available. People use the tumbling pieces to make intricate designs, stack them in long lines, or create structures such as castles and arches. Some use them to teach children simple counting skills, while others play games with complex rules and multiple players.

Dominoes are often considered to be toys, but they can also be used to build skills such as patience and perseverance. The way the pieces are arranged can help children understand the concept of cause and effect, as one domino knocks over the next. These kinds of lessons can help kids learn to overcome obstacles, such as when a new behavior doesn’t immediately lead to the desired outcome. This is sometimes referred to as the “domino effect.”

For adults who want to challenge their brains, there are many strategy games that use dominoes. They can range from the simple to the sophisticated, and they are a great way to socialize with friends while learning about probability and chance.

Most domino games involve scoring points by counting the number of pips on opposing tiles. The player who scores the most after a set number of rounds wins. The rules vary from game to game, and some use doubles (one or two, depending on the rules) and even blanks (which can be counted as a single tile or have a value assigned by the game).

When a domino is tipped over, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, which gives it the power to push over the next domino in the line. This continues until all the dominoes are tipped, and a domino chain is completed. Several principles of science are at work to make this happen.

Dominoes were first invented in the 18th century in Italy and France, and appeared in England around the end of that same period, possibly via French prisoners. The term “domino” is probably derived from the Italian word for mountain, which makes sense because the first dominoes were likely a series of small wooden blocks stacked on top of each other.

A domino artist named Lily Hevesh uses the laws of physics to create mind-blowing domino installations. She tests each section of an arrangement before she assembles the whole piece. Her most elaborate creations can take several nail-biting minutes to fall, but Hevesh says that she doesn’t do anything to cause the dominoes to tumble. She simply allows the force of gravity to do its work.