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How Dominoes Work

Dominoes, also known as bones or cards, are small rectangular tiles with a line down the center. Each side of the tile features an arrangement of spots, or pips, which correspond to the numbers on a die. A domino’s value is determined by the number of pips on both sides; this value is often referred to as its rank or weight. A domino that has more pips is generally considered “heavier” than one with fewer pips. Most standard sets feature a number of suits that each tile belongs to, and the values of a given suit range from six to zero (or blank).

A single domino is capable of being matched with many others to form long chains of play. Matching is accomplished by placing a domino on the table edge to edge against an existing tile with matching ends. The adjacent tiles are positioned so that the two matching ends of the domino touch either evenly or completely (depending on whether the tile is a double or not). Domino chains develop into snake-line shapes as players move their hands around the table, and each new tile played must be positioned in such a way that it touches the end of the chain if it has a number showing at one end or another.

When a player puts down a domino, its top slips across the bottom of the next tile and creates friction. As a result, the next tile’s potential energy converts into kinetic energy, or the energy of motion. This energy is transmitted from the first domino to the rest of the chain, causing them to fall and creating an ongoing series of chain reactions.

Each of these chains has its own rhythm and pace, which is determined in part by the length of each tile. A longer tile takes longer to fall than a shorter one, and the speed at which a domino falls can also vary depending on its shape.

Besides the basic blocking and scoring games, domino can also be used to play other types of games, such as solitaire and trick-taking games. These variants are often adaptations of card games and were once popular in areas where religious prohibitions against playing cards prevented their use.

When Lily Hevesh, a professional domino artist, creates her mind-blowing setups, she follows a version of the engineering-design process. She considers the theme or purpose of her installation and brainstorms images or words she might want to include. She then goes about laying out the pieces. Once the layout is complete, she flicks the first domino and watches as the entire sequence works its magic.

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