The Basics of Dominoes
A domino is a small rectangular block of wood or plastic, with one face blank and the other marked by dots or pips resembling those on dice. A domino can be played with two or more players, who play in turn, placing the tiles on a table so that each has an end touching another. Each successive tile laid adds to the chain, which is generally arranged in a snake-like shape depending on the rules of the game. A player may not play a piece with the same value as an already-existing domino (unless it is a double, in which case the matching ends must be adjacent to each other).
The most basic Western domino games involve blocking and scoring. The pips on each domino are organized into rows or columns of identical values, from six pips down to none or blank; the most common set has twenty-four such pips. These pips are molded or drilled into each domino, and the faces may be either blank or a pattern of colored spots.
Dominoes can be found in many colors, although white dominoes with black pips are most common. They are normally twice as long as they are wide, and this makes them easy to stack and re-stack when not in use. They are most often made of a hard material, such as bone or ivory, although some are plastic.
There are several different games that can be played with dominoes, including matching and counting, as well as strategy and chance games such as chess. They are also used in educational activities such as matching and sorting, and they are sometimes incorporated into teaching tools to help students learn about number value, addition, and subtraction.
While the word domino appears in English and French, it is not as common as it is in Spanish, where it means “flip.” The Spanish version of the word probably comes from a Latin diminutive of “dominium,” which itself might be derived from a word meaning “to dominate” or “to rule.” In this sense, the word refers to a powerful position or influence, such as that of a monarch or a political leader.
In physics, the term domino is a pun on gravity: When a domino is standing upright, it stores potential energy in its structure; when it falls, this energy changes to kinetic energy as the domino topples other pieces. The same principle applies to human behavior: if one person does something that affects other people, the effect can spread out in many different directions, as we will see below.