The Art of Dominoes


Dominoes are a set of flat, rectangular pieces that can be stacked on end in long lines. Each domino has a number of spots (or pips) on its two sides that indicate its value: one side may have six pips, the other none or blank. The value of a domino is usually determined at the time it is played, and is sometimes called its rank or weight. Each domino is typically twice as long as it is wide.

Dominos are often used to play games of chance and skill, but they can also be arranged to create works of art. These designs can be as simple or elaborate as the artist wants. One popular way is to use the pieces to make straight or curved lines that form a picture when they fall. Another method is to stack the dominoes to create 3D structures, such as towers or pyramids. The pieces can also be arranged in grids that form patterns, or stacked to create walls that are several feet tall.

Hevesh has worked on projects involving more than 300,000 dominoes, and she once helped set a record for the most dominoes toppled in a circular arrangement: 76,017. She has a special knack for creating these mind-boggling displays, and she credits one physical phenomenon in particular: gravity. When a domino is knocked over, its potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, which causes it to travel toward the next domino and cause it to topple over as well. This sequence continues in a chain reaction until the last domino is left standing.

While most dominoes are made of polymer materials, such as clay or plastic, sets can also be made from more exotic natural materials, including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, ebony, and other hardwoods. The natural materials give a more luxurious feel to the dominoes, and the woods often have a nicer weight than polymer material. Some of these natural materials are expensive, but they add an elegant touch to a game of dominoes.

Before a game of dominoes begins, the tiles are shuffled and placed on a table, and each player draws a certain amount of tiles. The first player places a tile on the edge of the table, either by drawing lots or by selecting the heaviest hand. The player who has the highest rank or weight wins. The rank or weight of a domino is calculated by adding the values of each adjacent pair of opposing pips. Typical values for a double domino are 6 or 12 depending on the rules of the game being played.

After the first domino is placed, players continue to place tiles until all of the pips have been covered or the players reach an agreed-upon score. The resulting score is then awarded to the winner, and the rest of the tiles are then gathered and put in a reserve, often called the boneyard. In addition to the standard blocking and scoring games, many other types of domino games have been developed.