If you thought science was difficult and boring, Michael Gross's latest book aims to change your mind. He has spent the last 15 years writing science pieces for newspapers and magazines and recently published a selection of them in The Birds, the Bees and the Platypuses. Under the headings 'crazy', 'sexy' and 'cool', he has picked his favourite stories to create the ideal book for dipping into.

His bite-size articles - updated with a little foreword and, where applicable, a what happened next?' slot - are diverse, humorous and surprisingly easy to digest, even if you don't have a scientific background. The 80 articles cover a gamut of topics, ranging from camel antibodies to dark matter, isotopes and biotronics. They may seem incomprehensible, but not when interpreted in Michael's open, inimitable style.

In The Science of The Simpsons, for example, he looks at the humorous, sophisticated way in which the series approaches science and the general public's perception of it. Another piece is about local conservation charity Earthwatch, which is using astronomical methods to identify spotted animals. Sometimes the language is difficult and there's the odd diagram to unravel, but it's a great snapshot of quirky scientific discoveries that you are unlikely to find in the general media.

His aim with the book is to try and break down the divide in western culture, where people without a scientific background often have little appreciation that our whole way of living today is based on science, and how fascinating the topic can be. He knows that, as he studied science, first at Regensburg in Germany (where he hails from) and then at Oxford.

Aged 44, Michael first came here in May 1993 on a post-doctoral fellowship at the Oxford Centre for Molecular Sciences. By this time, he was already writing articles on science for German newspapers. At first he wrote as a night-time hobby, as he enjoyed it so much. "Most researchers who write research papers hate it, they would rather get on with their lab work, but I was among the few who actually liked it, so that was a reminder that I was on to something."

Eventually, when he had to make a decision between academia and writing, the academic career went.

It is obvious, however, both from talking to him and from his book, that he is a scientist first and foremost, while being a news hound is less important than his ethics. For example, in an article on isotopes, he writes about hesitating to publish an article about delaying the ageing process. "I'm not entirely convinced that it's a good idea to make rich people live longer, while poor people keep dying prematurely of entirely avoidable causes."

Another thing that exercises him is the lack of science stories in the media. "I like to write about the things that the general public isn't aware of, but that as a scientist I think they should be aware of, for instance, all the crazy things that are out there in nature and that could be used for biotechnology and technology."

When he looked back at his career as a science journalist, he realised how much things had changed. "Fifteen years ago I was able to write in national newspapers about fundamental science, which I believe to be very important, but which isn't directly related to any news-driven agenda."

He used to write in the Guardian, for example, which once had a weekly science supplement, but such opportunities have now gone.

"There is a general competition for ever-faster and more newsy coverage, which has meant that all the newspapers I know have ditched the weekly supplements and are slotting in science with the daily news. The opportunity to dig a bit deeper and get at the more fundamental issues has disappeared."

These days, Michael concentrates on specialist magazines, such as Chemistry World and Current Biology, and German publications. "I have tried writing in French, but it is more difficult to get accepted than writing in English, because the French have a very high expectation of the literary style you're supposed to be writing, even as a journalist and science writer," he said.

Happily settled in Oxford, he loves everything about the place; the academic atmosphere, the mix of people and the fact that there are lots of things going on. "I don't think I could live in a city that doesn't have a university," he said. He also loves the river and lives five minutes walk from the Cherwell. "I find it soothing and very comforting to go and sit by a big river and watch it go by," he said.

His book isn't soothing, but it is fun to read and educational. Indeed, if you want to sound knowledgeable about esoteric bits of science, this is just the thing for you.

The Birds, the Bees and the Platypuses is published by Wiley at £18.99.