Geometric aspects of gauge and spacetime symmetries
We investigate several problems in relativity and particle physics where symmetries play a central role; in all cases geometric properties of Lie groups and their quotients are related to physical effects. The first part is concerned with symmetries in gravity. We apply the theory of Lie group deformations to isometry groups of exact solutions in general relativity, relating the algebraic properties of these groups to physical properties of the spacetimes. We then make group deformation local, generalising deformed special relativity (DSR) by describing gravity as a gauge theory of the de Sitter group. We find that in our construction Minkowski space has a connection with torsion; physical effects of torsion seem to rule out the proposed framework as a viable theory. A third chapter discusses a formulation of gravity as a topological BF theory with added linear constraints that reduce the symmetries of the topological theory to those of general relativity. We discretise our constructions and compare to a similar construction by Plebanski which uses quadratic constraints. In the second part we study CP violation in the electroweak sector of the standard model and certain extensions of it. We quantify fine-tuning in the observed magnitude of CP violation by determining a natural measure on the space of CKM matrices, a double quotient of SU(3), introducing different possible choices and comparing their predictions for CP violation. While one generically faces a fine-tuning problem, in the standard model the problem is removed by a measure that incorporates the observed quark masses, which suggests a close relation between a mass hierarchy and suppression of CP violation. Going beyond the standard model by adding a left-right symmetry spoils the result, leaving us to conclude that such additional symmetries appear less natural.