Currently I'm set to pursue solid state physics in a EE department, working on more practical theory. However I'm seeing a lot of papers studying mathematically obfuscatory topics such as topological materials, Berry's phase, quantum phase transitions, and other abstruse (albeit important and interesting) stuff. To summarize it in a name, it seems to be the specter of Dirac. After all, he was the first to really elevate austere, unintuitive mathematical analysis to legendary status in physics, so far as I know. Subsequently, a culture interested in repeating his feats has emerged. Topological properties of materials are sold on the basis that the mathematics is beautiful and elegant, exotic mathematical abstractions can guide experimental and industrial work (see: papers out of engineering departments investigating using TI's for spintronics or interconnects in integrated circuits etc). However there seems to be very little progress in the theoretical physics of ordinary, more down to earth stuff. I am unaware of any progress on turbulence. Non-equilibrium physics has received some useful updates by Jarzyski, Crooks, and probably others, but is mostly the domain of chemists. We don't seem to make physicists like Landau anymore, who had an intimidating command of both classical field theory (e.g. hydrodynamics) and the ability to contribute to fundamental physics. After this long winded post, my question is, if I wanted to pursue an "Onsager" or "Landau" style career (not assuming I can be even 1% as brilliant as either), how would I go about doing so? Why does there appear to be a dearth of progress and work in such subjects? Am I simply missing something?