The colored Jones polynomials are conjectured to detect geometric information about knot complements, such as hyperbolic volume. These relationships ("volume conjectures") are known in a number of special cases but are in general quite mysterious. In this talk I will discuss a program to better understand them by constructing holonomy invariants, which depend on both a knot K and a representation of its knot group into SL_2(C). By defining a version of the Jones polynomial that knows about geometric data, we hope to better understand why the ordinary Jones polynomial does too. Along the way we can obtain more powerful quantum invariants of knots and other topological objects.
The ADM mass of an isolated gravitational system is a geometric invariant measuring the total mass due to matter and other fields. In a previous work, we showed how to compute this invariant (in 3 spatial dimensions) by studying harmonic functions. Now I'll use this formula to consider the question: How flat is an asymptotically flat manifold with very little total mass? In the presence of a lower bound on Ricci curvature, we make progress on this question and confirm special cases of conjectures made by Ilmanen and Sormani.