Dominoes are small, flat rectangular blocks used as gaming pieces. They can be stacked in long lines, and each domino has a value on one side (either six or blank) which can be compared to the values on the other side of a competing piece. The difference in value gives the player an advantage when they play a particular domino. Dominoes can also be used to create intricate designs, and the art form is often considered a mathematical challenge. The word “domino” comes from the Latin for “falling block.”

In modern times, many people use domino to refer to a chain reaction or sequence of events that lead to larger consequences. For example, if your soccer team wins against its biggest rivals, it can create a domino effect of goodwill in the community and a positive momentum that could propel them to state playoffs. In the business world, the word is often used to describe a strategy that starts small and builds into something much bigger.

You can find dominoes in a wide variety of styles and materials, but most sets are made from polymer or resin, with a colored surface that is either printed or painted to distinguish each piece. Some are made from natural substances such as bone, ivory, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl or MOP), or a dark wood like ebony, with contrasting black or white dots called pips inlaid or painted.

A domino is typically twice as long as it is wide, but some are shaped differently and feature different dimensions. The pips are normally arranged in two squares on each face, with the identity-bearing face of the domino separating the pips from each other by a line or ridge. The value of a domino is usually expressed as the sum of all the pips on both sides of the piece, although some dominoes have only one face with a value.

Dominoes can be used for a variety of games, but the most popular in the West are those that involve a single player building and knocking over chains. The rules vary widely, but the basic idea is that a domino is tipped over, causing the next domino in the line to tip over, and so on. The first domino to reach the end of its row is called a winner.

More advanced players can build intricate displays of dominoes, forming patterns and shapes that are often inspired by nature or mythology. The most important factor in any domino display is that the entire setup must be perfectly aligned to allow the pieces to fall as intended. Artists such as Hevesh, who holds the Guinness record for the most dominoes set up in a circular arrangement, spend hours planning and testing each component of their massive creations before they begin to fall. Hevesh explains that gravity is the most crucial element to a great domino setup, and she uses the laws of physics to guide her work. Watch the video to learn how she makes her incredible installations.