Dominos are a small rectangular tile marked with an arrangement of dots or “pips” that are similar to those on a die. One side of the domino is a specific color and the other is blank or identically patterned. Each tile is linked to the next domino by a line or ridge, which allows players to form chains of dominoes that build in length until they’re knocked over.
Dominoes are used in a wide variety of games and activities. They’re often used in a mathematical manner to demonstrate the law of large numbers, but they also have a more abstract use—as a metaphor for an event or series of events that cascade from one small trigger to another.
For instance, a person might say, “That accident was just the start of a series of bad things that happened.” Another way to think of this is the domino effect—the chain reaction that begins when one thing causes a change in other related things. A great example of this occurs when a student gets good grades, which leads to a greater interest in schoolwork and better study habits, which ultimately leads to success at school. Alternatively, a team wins against its biggest rivals, and this can create a chain reaction of positive feelings in the community.
When it comes to writing, the domino effect is a useful concept to keep in mind when considering plotting a novel. Whether you compose your manuscript off the cuff or take time with a careful outline, every plot beat should be considered a potential domino that can cause other plot beats to fall in place.
Physicist Stephen Morris says that when you set up a domino, it has some potential energy based on its position, and as it falls, much of that potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, the energy of motion. Most of that kinetic energy is transmitted to the next domino, giving it the push it needs to topple. Then, other kinetic energy is transferred to the next domino and so on until all the dominoes have fallen.
Dominoes are usually made from polymer clay, ceramic, or molded plastic, but they can be made from wood, bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, and ebony. Natural materials are preferred for some gamers, and these sets tend to have a more authentic look than polymer dominoes. They can also feel a bit more substantial in the hand.
Dominos are also available in a range of colors and designs, from classic black to bright pink. Some designers even create sets of custom dominoes for different occasions, such as birthdays and weddings. They’re an inexpensive way to add a special touch to any celebration.