York Ph.D. student Alejandro de la Rosa Gomez gave a presentation on some of the tricks which have led to many breakthroughs in theoretical physics. You can now watch the video below.
Here's the abstract:
Nature is sneaky. Once we figure out how something works and can finally go to bed, she makes sure we wake up to a harder problem. To be fair, we're very ambitious: we would like a single, beautiful idea to explain everything we see. A priori, there's no reason why this should be true. But we might as well explore the possibility. After all, as humans, we enjoy pretty, simple things.
The truth is, the rules of the game which we've discovered so far are simple, but they're not easy. Something as simple as the behaviour of a hydrogen atom in a magnetic field took several decades to figure out precisely. And we had to sacrifice mathematical consistency to do so.
In fact, the trickstery used in that single discovery allowed us to explain a lot of phenomena. In this talk I will present to you the set of unconventional tricks we theoretical physicists use to make calculations, not before I review the ideas which lead to one of the most incredible scientific achievements of the last century.