The Domino Effect

The domino effect is the result of an accumulative chain reaction that causes a small change to affect an entire system. It’s often used in business to describe how a small change can cause a large, far-reaching impact. It also occurs in fiction and nonfiction as a way to illustrate a larger point or idea.

Domino, in this context, is a set of flat rectangular blocks that have a unique identifier on one side and blank or identically patterned surfaces on the other, and may be marked with an arrangement of dots or pips (also known as spots): 28 such dominoes comprise a full domino set. These tiles are typically used as the foundations for a variety of games, in which players score by completing sets or by blocking their opponents’ play.

Traditionally, dominoes were made of bone or ivory, dark hardwood such as ebony, and painted white or black. Today, a wide variety of plastic and other polymer materials are used for domino sets. Sets are also available in natural materials such as marble, granite, soapstone, wood, and even crystal or frosted glass. Some sets feature an architectural design, while others are themed to a specific time or place.

When a domino is set down, it starts out with potential energy stored in its pips and surface. When the first domino in a line is tipped over, this energy is converted to kinetic energy, which is transferred to the next domino in the line and helps to push it over as well. The process continues until all of the dominoes in the line have fallen.

The most common types of domino games are based on layouts, in which the goal is to complete a series of “lines” or other shapes with the domino pieces. This can be done either by laying down a single domino on its end, or by arranging a group of dominoes in long lines that can be tipped over one after another to form the desired shape.

Many domino games are played in competition, and the winner is determined by whichever player or team has the most completed lines at the end of the game. Blocking games, in which a player tries to empty his or her hand while blocking the opponent’s play, are also popular. Scored games, such as bergen and muggins, determine points by counting the number of pips in the losing players’ hands.

In addition to classic blocking and scoring games, there are a number of other games that use dominoes of a very different character, including solitaire or trick-taking games, which were once popular as ways to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards. There are even domino variants of familiar card games such as poker.