What is Domino?

Domino is a set of 28 black and white squares that some people play with by lining them up in straight or curved lines, then flicking the first one to knock them all down. Some people also create domino art, which can include anything from stacked walls to 3-D structures like towers and pyramids.

Lily Hevesh started collecting dominoes when she was 9 and loved setting them up in a line, flicking the first one, and watching the entire chain fall. Now she’s a professional domino artist who creates spectacular setups for movies, TV shows, and events—including an album launch for pop star Katy Perry. Her YouTube channel, Hevesh5, has more than 2 million subscribers.

Dominos have a long history and many variations. Originally, the tiles were used as a mathematical game and each one had the same number of spots on each end (called pip). Today, dominoes are more often used in games involving blocking and scoring and can be found in many different types of sets. Some are made to be reusable, while others are designed for specific games. The most common set contains double-six pieces, which feature a line that divides them visually into two squares with values ranging from six to none or blank. Each of the pips on each end belongs to a suit, which may consist of two suits or three suits.

The word “domino” is probably derived from the French for cape, which suggests a connection to the hooded garment worn over a priest’s surplice. The English word appeared around 1750, but it was likely the French word that gave rise to the game. The English term “domino” is also thought to come from the Italian word for “little domino,” which may refer to the small size of these pieces compared to the size of a player’s hand.

As a physicist, Stephen Morris explains that when you place a domino upright, it stores energy as potential energy. But when you push it down, the energy is converted to kinetic energy—the energy of motion. When the domino hits the ground, it’s almost like a domino rally, with each domino knocking down the one in front of it until the entire chain has fallen.

When the chain is complete, the winner is determined by counting the total number of spots on all of the dominoes still standing and subtracting any extras that may have been added along the way. Other rules, such as how long a domino can remain on the table, vary according to the game being played. Some players will take turns playing a domino until they run out, while others will continue to play as long as there are sleeping dominoes left on the table. This rule is meant to encourage strategy and prevent players from simply throwing down their last domino as a victory. It’s a form of the Domino Effect, an idea put forth by Robert Cialdini in his classic book on human behavior, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The Domino Effect says that when you make a change in your life, it can inspire other changes as if they were triggered by the first change. For example, when someone decides to spend less time sitting in a chair and more walking or biking to work, they’re more likely to eat fewer calories as a result.