The Karman Vortex Street isn't someplace you'd want to take up residence — it's literally the path of destruction, where buildings collapse and destruction reigns. Unfortunately, under the right conditions, a Karman Vortex can follow you.

Find out how this beautiful phenomenon can take down anything in its path.

Theodore von Karman, a Hungarian physicist, spent much of the first decade of the 1900s trying to figure out why certain things — airplane wings, bridge supports, buildings, and submarines — would suddenly and spontaneously begin to vibrate. The vibration, once started, would often amp up and up until the entire structure would spin out of control or fall apart. This, understandably, was a major problem.

Karman's first insight was that the closer to cylindrical the object's shape was, the more it tended to vibrate. His second insight led him to turn away from the actual object and toward its medium. And after looking at the medium that moved over these objects, he noticed something.

Aerodynamics are at their best when the air (or any gas, or liquid) flows neatly around the object, conforming exactly to the object's shape. This is why wings open with a curve and taper off behind, parting the air quickly but letting it flow over the curves and break away from the wing going pretty much directly back. By sending air streaming directly back, the object gets a push directly forward. Of course wings divert the air slightly down, giving the plane a slight lift, as well, but they still give the air an orderly path to follow.

Things get tricky, though, when a flowing medium encounters a cylinder instead of a wing. When that happens, the flow can 'break away' from the object at its widest point. Instead of flowing back from the object, it is directed off to one side. This break in the medium curls the other side in, before it, too, breaks away in its own dash to one side. Now, instead of the air or fluid pushing the object forward, it pushes it to either side, over and over. This continual back and forth makes the whole structure shake back and forth ever more violently as behind it, the fluid forms a rather beautiful structure now dubbed the Karman Vortex Street.