The Art of Domino


Domino is an ancient game that is played by arranging domino tiles on a surface. The game can be as simple or complicated as the players want, with rules that vary depending on how it is played and who is playing. Each domino has a pattern of dots, or pips, on one side and is blank on the other. Each player draws a set of dominoes, and the first person to play a tile begins a chain reaction by placing the domino on the edge of the table so that its pips touch one another. The second player then places a tile touching the end of the previous domino in such a way that it fits perfectly. The third player then follows this pattern, continuing the chain until all of the dominoes are on the edge of the table and arranged in a snake-like line.

The beauty of dominoes is in how they make other things fall. The most popular games include blocking and scoring, with the winner being the player who plays all of their tiles first or scores the most points in a given number of rounds. The game can be very simple, with only the identifying pips showing on each domino, or it can be more complex, involving the use of matching sets of tiles. Some games require matching doubles (one side must match the other), while others have blank sides that can be ascribed any value.

While some domino games are simple enough to be learned in a few minutes, others are incredibly intricate and require expert craftsmanship. The domino artist Hevesh, for example, creates mind-blowing displays using nothing more than dominoes and the laws of physics. Her projects range from small displays to the Guinness World Record holder for the most dominoes tipped over in a circular arrangement: 76,017.

When Hevesh starts working on a new domino project, she first considers the theme or purpose of it. Then, she brainstorms what images or words she might want to use in her design. Once she has a vision in place, she sets the first domino in the center of the circle and then builds out from there. Each domino she places takes several nail-biting minutes to fall in a chain reaction.

Hevesh believes that one physical phenomenon is crucial to the success of her designs: gravity. “When you stand a domino upright, it has potential energy, which is the amount of energy it has stored in its position,” says physicist Stephen Morris. “But when you knock it over, that potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, which causes the next domino to tip.”

This process may seem slow and tedious, but Hevesh knows that a good domino setup requires meticulous planning. She spends about 30 to 40 minutes laying out her track before she actually starts the chain reaction, and she only has a few seconds to get everything into place before the dominoes begin falling. She calls this process the “domino math,” and it teaches her important lessons about time management and execution.

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