Playing Dominoes Like an Engineer

Whether we line them up in long rows or knock them down, dominoes are fun to play with. They can also inspire creative designs, such as curved lines that form pictures, stacked walls or 3D structures like pyramids. Hevesh follows a version of the engineering-design process to create her mind-blowing domino installations. She starts by considering a theme or purpose, then brainstorms images or words that might help her convey that idea.

Dominoes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they are all small square blocks that are normally twice as long as they are wide. Each domino has two ends, or faces, which feature a number of spots, known as pips, in different colors and arrangements. The total value of the pips on a single domino is called its rank or weight. The higher the rank, the more valuable a domino is. A domino that has a high number of pips is also said to have more “strength.”

Every domino belongs to one suit of numbers (sevens, sixes and eights) and one suit of blanks, or zeroes, although some sets contain all three suits. Each suit contains the same number of pips, but each has its own color scheme and layout. A domino may also have a symbol or marking on it that identifies it in a specific game.

A player places a domino on the table in such a way that its end that shows a number is touching an opposing end that shows the same number. In this way a chain of numbers is formed which grows until it is too long to continue. If a player is unable to continue, he or she “chips out,” and the game continues with the other players.

The word domino is probably derived from the Latin, dominus. It is also thought to be derived from a French word for hood, as in the type of monastic hood worn by Dominican priests. The word later gave its name to a type of mask used by Europeans at Carnival, then to a hooded costume worn by Inuits and finally to one of the pieces in a domino set.

When a domino is played, its potential energy turns into kinetic energy and gives the next domino a push. This energy continues traveling from domino to domino until all the ones on the table have been pushed over, which is often called a domino rally or a domino storm. When you plot your story, consider how to use the principle of the domino effect to make it more interesting for readers.