Domino is the game of lining up pieces of a rectangular shape and then knocking them over one by one, creating a chain reaction. It’s also a metaphor for storytelling, with each domino delivering a plot beat, or scene, in a story. Domino is a great tool to use in analyzing stories, allowing writers to look at the big picture and figure out where to insert a story point.
The modern Western dominoes are made of small, square-shaped tiles that have a line or ridge on one face and an arrangement of spots, called “pips,” on the other. There are a number of ways to arrange the pips, and different types of dominoes can be used for different games. A typical domino set has double-twelve (91 tiles) or double-nine (55 tiles) dominoes, although larger sets are sometimes used.
Depending on the game, the pips on a domino can be used to identify each piece or to indicate their value. A typical domino has a total of twenty-one pips, but some have as few as six or as many as thirty. In a normal game of domino, each player takes turns placing a domino on the table and positioning it edge to edge against another domino so that the exposed ends are identical or form a specified total. The first person to place a domino of this kind is said to win the game.
In addition to block games, dominoes can be played with scoring objectives. The most common of these involve matching a series of dominoes with each other. A player may also score by laying a single domino in the middle of a row, with two other players taking turns placing their tiles on the ends of the row, so that the exposed ends match. The number of points a player scores depends on the numbers on the dominoes touching the one in the center and is usually a multiple of five.
Professional domino artist Lily Hevesh began playing with her grandparents’ classic 28-piece set at age 9. Since then, she’s worked on projects that require more than 300,000 dominoes and helped to set a record for the largest domino line in a circular arrangement. But she says the most important force at work in her impressive domino setups is gravity.
Hevesh creates her installations by putting up each section individually. Then she tests each piece to see how it works before putting them all together. Despite this careful planning, she’s still surprised by some of the physics involved in domino.
Physicist Stephen Morris says that when you pick up a domino, it has potential energy based on its position. But when you knock it over, the potential energy becomes kinetic energy as it falls. This change in energy causes the next domino to topple, which in turn can cause the next and so on. That’s what makes it so exciting to watch a long line of dominoes fall.