Dominoes are those little black and white rectangles you see lined up in long rows on a table. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some people use them for decorative purposes, while others enjoy playing games with them. Many children are familiar with dominoes and have probably played with them at some point in their lives. Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by a reader named Juan, who wondered, “How do dominoes make that amazing domino effect?”
The most basic set of dominoes contains 28 tiles and is known as a double-twelve or double-nine set. They are typically used to play games where each player turns over two of their tiles and places them so that the number shows on one end of the tile or the other. Then they try to create a chain that will continue until all the tiles have fallen. The game can be played in a variety of ways, with different players and with various scoring methods.
A domino is most likely to fall if it has a larger number on its one end than the other. This is because the weight of a greater number will cause the smaller number to push the larger domino down. A domino’s number can be determined by counting its pips or by looking at the color of its spots. Some games use only the numbers on the ends of the tiles, while others also look at the number and color on the spots on both sides of a tile.
When a domino is standing upright, it has potential energy because of the force of gravity pulling on it. When the first domino falls, some of this energy is converted to kinetic energy, which gives it the push needed to knock over the next domino. The rest of the energy is transmitted from domino to domino until all the pieces have fallen.
It takes a lot of energy to reset the dominoes after each trial, just as it does for a nerve impulse to reestablish its resting state after it travels down a nerve axon. The removal of a domino also stops the chain reaction because it takes energy to redistribute ions and stop the flow of electricity.
Some players use a special type of domino to help them make their plays. A spinner, for example, has a number showing on all four sides. Depending on the rules of the game, this type of domino may be used as the lead, but if it isn’t, it can only be played on the edge of a double (i.e., 4-4).
Another way to score a game of domino is to count the total number of pips on the tiles left in the losing players’ hands at the end of their hand or the game and add that to the winner’s score. Another common method of scoring is to count only the number of pips on a double (i.e., a 4-4 counts as only 4 points).