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The Domino Effect

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Dominoes are small, flat, rectangular blocks that feature a number on each end. Known as bones, men, or pieces, dominoes are used for playing games of chance and skill. A domino’s value is determined by the sum of the dots or pips on each side, with values starting at six pips and decreasing to none or blank (a double). The most common domino set contains 28 tiles.

As a domino falls, most of its potential energy transforms to kinetic energy, the energy of motion. Some of this energy is transmitted to the next domino, providing the push needed to knock it over. The energy continues traveling from domino to domino until all of them have fallen over, creating a chain reaction called the Domino Effect.

The domino principle also can be applied to everyday life, as in the idiom domino effect, which describes any situation in which one small event can lead to a larger sequence of events. For example, if a bomb explodes in a building, the debris from that explosion could be scattered in many directions, and some of it might land on a person walking by. This person would be knocked over, and the subsequent effects could have far-reaching consequences.

In his book The Domino Effect, entrepreneur and author Stephen R. Covey describes how dominoes can be used to help people achieve success. He explains that a good domino strategy is to pick the most important task of the day and focus all of your efforts on that task until it is complete. Then, you can move on to the next most important task. If you are able to keep this cycle going, you will eventually achieve all of the goals and dreams that you have for your life.

Traditionally, dominoes are made of bone, silver lip ocean oyster shell (mother of pearl), or ivory with contrasting black pips. More recently, domino sets have been made from materials such as natural stone (e.g., marble or granite), woods (e.g., ebony or redwood), metals (e.g., brass or pewter), and even ceramic clay. Some players prefer the look and feel of natural materials, while others enjoy the precision and consistency offered by plastic-based sets.

Western dominoes are typically used for positional games. Each player draws a domino from the boneyard and places it on the table, positioning it so that both ends of the tile are touching another piece of a domino chain (which is gradually increasing in length). A single tile may only be played when its pips match those of the previous tile in the chain. The first player to play a tile is usually determined by drawing lots, or the player holding the heaviest hand. A player is required to continue adding dominoes to the chain until it is completed. The player who wins the most dominoes is the winner of the game. In addition to the traditional dominoes, a variety of other kinds of games can be played with these structures.