The question came up after I read this thoughtful blog entry on the Nature website.
So what are we in science for? In a way we are entrepreneurs just like the internet moguls. As Wikipedia defines it : An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and is accountable for the inherent risks and the outcome. We too are after outcomes that have a fairly low probability of success. On top of that, we voluntarily subject ourselves to repeated "abuse" in a process known as peer review. It may even be that we are socially challenged and prefer to deal with objects rather than fellow human beings, a view that I have come to embrace after my stint as a chemistry department head!
In the end, I can only summarize my own irrational interest in scientific research by quoting the sculptor Henry Moore: "The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do."
So why do YOU do science?