The Art of Dominoes

Dominoes are small, rectangular blocks of rigid material marked with two groups of dots on one side. They are often referred to as bones, pieces, men, or stones, and they can be used for many games in which dominoes are arranged in straight or curved lines that fall when the first domino is flicked. Some people spend their lives building intricate domino sets, and others simply enjoy arranging them to watch the chain reaction. In either case, the results can be stunning, and some of the best domino sets take several nail-biting minutes to set in motion.

The word domino comes from the Latin dominum, meaning “heavy.” The original meaning of the word has since shifted to describe any heavy or large item. Dominoes are typically made from polymer materials such as polystyrene, styrofoam, or cardboard, but there are also sets made from natural materials like wood (especially ebony and bone) or stone. There are even sets that use frosted glass or crystal to add a more decorative look.

Although dominoes are used to play many different games, the most common type of domino game is a layout game for two players. These games are based on the arrangement of the dominoes, with each player putting down their dominoes in lines or angular patterns. Most layout games fall into two categories: blocking and scoring games.

Lily Hevesh, a domino artist who builds intricate displays that can take hours to set in motion, says one physical phenomenon is crucial for great domino projects: gravity. “When you have a domino standing upright, it’s holding on to its potential energy,” she says. “But when you knock it over, that energy is converted to kinetic energy.”

This kinetic energy is what causes the next domino in the line to fall. It’s a principle that physicist Stephen Morris calls the “domino effect,” where changing one behavior causes changes in related behaviors, just as a drop of water creates waves in a glass of water. Admiral William H. McRaven, for example, once urged University of Texas graduates to make their beds every morning, which led them to change other habits such as eating less fat.

Domino’s Founder and Chairman Tom Monaghan exemplified the domino effect when he launched his pizza company in 1967. He opened the first Domino’s in Ypsilanti, Michigan, placing the pizzerias near college campuses where his target market lived. This strategy ensured that Domino’s would be a hit with young adults, and it helped the company grow quickly. Today, more than 200 Domino’s locations are open worldwide and the company is expanding into new territories such as Italy. The company is also investing in technology to innovate the way customers order their pizzas, including using text messages and Amazon Echo devices. Domino’s has even worked with crowd-sourced car designers to develop a cool-looking Domino’s delivery vehicle.

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