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How Dominoes Work

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Dominoes are one of the most popular toys around, and for good reason: They’re fun to play with, can be made into pretty much any shape you want, and even teach kids about math and science. Domino artist Lily Hevesh has taken her love of the game to new heights, creating mind-blowing designs that can take weeks to complete. Watch her explain how she creates these stunning installations, and learn about the physics that makes them work.

A domino is a flat rectangular block of ivory, bone, or plastic with a line in the center that divides it visually into two squared areas. The top of each area contains a number of spots or pips, and the bottom contains nothing. A domino may have a single suit of numbers, two suits, or be blank (called the zero suit). Each suit has seven tiles that are identical, and each tile is assigned a value from one to six.

The most common domino sets have 28 tiles, and large sets with more than 55 tiles exist for games involving many players. Most domino games are positional, with players placing a piece on the edge of another piece so that the adjacent faces match (or form some other specified total) or are opposite each other (“blocking”). A player may also win by emptying his hand. Scored games, such as bergen and muggins, determine points by counting the number of pips in each losing player’s hand.

Domino Data Lab is an end to end data science platform that allows teams to collaborate and build models faster. It integrates with popular version control systems like Bitbucket, and lets users spin up interactive workspaces of different sizes to explore data. It also enables users to deploy models into production, making it a powerful tool for data scientists.

Hevesh is a self-taught domino artist, and she has learned to rely on a few key physical phenomena in order to make her intricate designs possible. Gravity, for instance, is critical to her creations. When a domino is knocked over, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, which provides the push that causes the next domino to fall over—and so on.

Dominoes are typically crafted from polymer, but some sets are made of natural materials such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), bone, or ivory; metals such as brass and pewter; ceramic clay; or other solid materials. The natural sets have a more novel look and often feel heavier in the hand than their polymer counterparts. They’re more expensive, too, but they’re prized by some for their beauty and durability. Historically, dominoes have also been made of precious stones such as marble, granite, or soapstone; woods such as ebony or mahogany; and a variety of other materials.

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