When doing research in theoretical physics, a frequent task one encounters is trying to express some physical quantity as a function of other quantities. A lot of times this can't be done analytically, but even when it can - it sometimes results in very long and complicated symbolic expressions.
Although technically such an expression is a "solution", it is not of much use for a researcher that wants to gain physical insight from the solution, and maybe rely on it to do more research.
What are some general strategies a researcher can use to gain insight when confronted with such expressions?
For starters - here are some ideas I use:
- Check certain limits of the expression, i.e. when one of the variables is very low or very high - these are often simpler and can shed light on the behavior in the general case.
- Look for a recurring pattern in the expression and give it a name. The newly defined variable usually has some physical significance in itself, and also when all the occurrences of the pattern are replaced with the new variable the whole expression becomes simpler.
- Substitute some of the variables with reasonable numerical estimates, and plot the expression as a function of the rest of the variables.