In this talk, I will describe basic ideas of the orbit method as well as a recent development on the problem of unipotent representations, which is to associate unitary representations to nilpotent coadjoint orbits and which is the hardest part of the orbit method. We solve this problem for real classical groups, by profitably combining analytic ideas of R. Howe on theta lifting and algebro-geometric ideas of D. A. Vogan, Jr. on associate varieties. This is joint work with J.-J. Ma and B. Sun.
The talk is aimed at a general audience of mathematicians and graduate students.