Theodore Zeldin believes conversation has the power to change the world. Not a chance remark, and certainly not small talk, but the kind of meaningful exchange of ideas we tend deliberately to avoid in social situations.
Now the celebrated philosopher and historian is travelling the world holding talk-fests where people begin to discuss a topic with a complete stranger,
It could be the closing scene of a feel-good film. But it will happen for real, tomorrow afternoon. Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman, mocked for years for his off-the-wall theory, has not only been proved correct, but he will climb to the podium at Stockholm Concert Hall and receive the Nobel Prize for chemistry. The award is often shared by several people , but he has it all to himself.
Everyone thinks they know the story of the Volkswagen Beetle. Created by Ferdinand Porsche, under the guidance of Adolf Hitler, the Beetle is not only the most popular car of all time, it was the most successful project of the Nazis.
Lynne Franks: How has the Jewish aspect of your upbringing influenced you?
Susan Greenfield: My Jewish credentials are through my father's father who was a first-generation immigrant from a shtetl in Austria who came over as a baby towards the end of the 19th century. My dad was born in 1915 and grew up in the East End and spoke some Yiddish.
It is not unknown for Jews to make up new words. It is part of the psyche of a people as rich in vocabulary as in history. But there is one four-letter word that is wonderfully redolent of service to the Anglo-Jewish community. It will not be found in any dictionary. It is frequently misspelt. But at this time of year, in particular, it should be on the lips of every thinking British Jew.
Bar- and batmitzvah celebrations happen to coincide with the onset of adolescence for many youngsters. Inevitably they will be experiencing a series of dramatic psychological changes and social occasions during this time can feel like an emotional obstacle course. The self-esteem of early adolescents can be fragile, and little is more important than the feeling of being accepted by their peers.
London Walks, one of the capital's longest established walking tour companies, offers an "Old Jewish Quarter" tour of the East End. I have been on several of their enlightening guided walks - they have scores of them - but I wondered about this one. Hasn't that Jewish past been swept away by the curry houses and mosques of later Asian immigrants? What is there left to see? Quite a bit, actually.