Dominoes are a game in which a series of small rectangular blocks (often called men, bones, stones, or cards) are positioned and played into a pattern with the goal of getting them to fall down. The dominoes are arranged on a table and the players use a variety of tricks to try to beat each other.
A domino is a hollow wooden block, ranging in size from about one inch to about four inches square. It is usually made of hard woods such as maple, ash, or oak and often has an intricate pattern of pips that can be distinguished from other dominoes. The pips are arranged in different colors and may be arranged in a variety of patterns and designs.
The basic rules for domino games are the same for all variations, except that players draw from a stock of seven pieces and play the dominoes into a sequence of moves. Each player’s turn begins with the heaviest domino in his or her hand and ends when that domino is toppled.
If a double-six domino is toppled, a chain reaction starts that causes each succeeding domino to fall. This is because the falling dominoes convert their stored potential energy to kinetic energy, causing them to fall down.
Scientists have discovered that this process is similar to how nerve impulses work in our bodies. Our brains receive a signal from a domino to trigger a particular reaction in our cells, and as the dominoes drop down, they create a rapid pulse of electrical energy that travels down the line of dominoes.
Physicist Stephen Morris of the University of Toronto believes that dominoes’ ability to fall down is due to a change in the domino’s kinetic energy. Standing a domino upright, Morris explains, gives it “potential energy,” which is stored in the tile’s position as it is being lifted by gravity. When a domino falls, however, most of that energy is converted to kinetic energy and then falls down the line of dominoes.
It is also possible to build a series of dominos in such a way that they can be toppled without the need for any human intervention. This is known as a domino show and can be seen in many countries around the world.
The word domino comes from the Latin dominio, meaning “cape,” and in English and French it denotes a cape worn by a priest over his surplice. It is believed that the name was first used to describe a domino-like playing piece in 1750, although some scholars believe it may have been originally used for a long hooded cloak worn during carnival season or a masquerade.
Various variations of the game exist, ranging from games with a single suit (such as Spades) to more complex games such as 42. Some of these variants have additional rules for determining how to play the game, such as the number of points in a hand. These rules can vary by region and by the type of dominoes used, but typically involve the heaviest piece in each suit being drawn and played into a sequence of moves. The player with the lowest score wins the game.