One of the interviewees in Engaging Pieces is Paul Hoffman, who used to edit Discover magazine and who writes frequently for big media outlets such as the New York Times. Hoffman’s also a chessplayer and his latest book is King’s Gambit (which is NOT about the opening).
From the Engaging Pieces interview:
Mathematics is very similar [to chess]. On the one hand, at first blush, mathematics looks like a discipline based on calculation. Yet to make great leaps forward in mathematics and come up with new theories, requires the same kind of intuitive leaps that happen with someone who advances chess strategy.
So we’re back to theoretical physics. Physics could be called an attempt to precisely (mathematically) describe nature. How stuff works. What exactly the universe is made of. Over time various theoretical frameworks have been developed to describe, for example, gravity and the movements of planets (e.g. relativity) and the movements of subatomic particles (e.g. quantum field theory). There’s a ton of mathematical complexity involved but the development of each new framework required a dramatically new underlying concept.
And, as this site explains with such clarity, string theory (with yet another new underlying concept) arose as physicists attempted to reconcile discrepancies between the frameworks for the big bodies and the small ones. Older but still useful diagrams and explanations by the same author here.