This is one of the classic motivations for many a Science Is Bad movie, the researcher will seek forbidden knowledge for its own sake rather than to better the world; usually this simple curiosity will evolve into "ambition" and "hubris" before long, as caution and restraint are thrown out the steel-barred window.
When a scientist says he does something For Science!, what this usually means is he simply doesn't care about the answers to several important questions regarding his research, like:
Usually, this nonchalance leads to Reed Richards Is Useless as they file away their inventions under "Forgotten Phlebotinum" rather than seek to commercialize them or expanding the body of knowledge available to humanity. And that's with normal research. Contrary to Fridge Logic, For Science rarely provides additional insight in its field; after the Nuclear Roboclone is created, most Mad Scientists lose interest in documenting how they actually did it and what else can be done with those methods. Where test subjects are concerned, at their most benign they'll only threaten to do minor experiments on friends; if they get volunteers or luckily capture one, the effects will be quirky and temporary.
These benign inventors may end up in service of the Corrupt Corporate Executive, and will be so happy to have funding they don't ask where the money comes from — or what their discoveries are being used for. Expect them to go "You promised you would use my discoveries for good!" to his "Oh, but I am!"
It can also lead to Slowly Slipping Into Evil as an inventor slips into full blown, cackling mad science as sanity and ethics are deemed "irrelevant" or hindrances to their work. Other times, the answers they come up with to the above questions will lead them to a life of supervillainy as they get research funds by robbing banks, get test subjects by kidnapping, and out-and-out make things solely for destructive purposes... or because they can.
Villains who adhere to the above principles are often very good at depicting themselves as victims and their opponents as the true villains. For starters, many will claim that they have "progress" on their side - thus evoking "progressivism" as a kind of moral imperative and implying that anyone who would dare stand in their way is an arrogant, bigoted, barbaric and just plain mean knuckle-dragger who resents knowledge of any kind. The fact that scientists themselves can be pretty arrogant and brutal on occasion never occurs to such villains - or if it does, they don't care.
There is some truth to this — many scientists and especially mathematicians do what they do for the fun of it rather than more practical concerns — but that's little different from the rest of academia. Besides, basic research done to expand human knowledge without regard for practical applications is the sort of science that produces groundbreaking insights. Darwin studied evolution to understand life better, not because he wanted to advance the art of animal husbandry.
Remember, Science Is Bad, but... but... Just Think of the Potential! Contrast For Art! and For Cuisine!Battle Cry for the Mad Scientist, the Hollywood Atheist, the Morally Ambiguous Doctorate, Gadgeteer Genius and Science Hero.
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Anime & Manga
Durstan, Stan Lee's Author Avatar, in the manga Ultimo, created two highly-destructive robotic embodiments of good and evil, with weaponry capable of annihilating cities if not nations, all because he was curious which force was stronger. To further salt the wound, he admits that their fights could last indefinitely and ultimately end the world.
Bleach's MayuriKurotsuchi and Szayel Aporro Granz. Kurotsuchi despises Szayel, appropriately enough, because Szayel claims to be perfect - and to Kurotsuchi, the idea of perfection is impossibly unscientific.
Dantalion from Shakugan no Shana is a typical Mad Scientist who doesn't care if any of his experiments succeed or fail or even destroy existence (likely a fail), so long as something interesting happens. Generally disliked by his fellow Demonic Invaders for his reckless and unpredictable experiments, some on his own kind, some resulting in powerful artifacts turned against them and Flame Haze. But he's such a fun character...
Domino: What's going to happen now professor?
Dantalion: I don't know! That's why we do these experiments!
Major motivation of the Big Bad in Steam Boy. The movie leaves some ambiguity over whether he's right.
Washu from Tenchi Muyo! is just eccentric enough to pull off wanting to experiment on Tenchi without crossing into villainous water.Though her daughter might be another matter... Plus she's so darn cute! In the original script she was the villain, and Kagato was just an illusion created by her. But then the creative team decided she was far too fun a character to kill off, so the anime world got its greatest scientific genius, and got to keep her. It's also played for laughs considering what she wants from him and her Hello, Nurse! outfit just makes it even funnier. Plus all the things she says when she is getting her tissue and *ahem* fluid samples: "You want me to use my mouth?" Which is rejected, which eventually prompts her to give the "whole package."
How much does Huey Laforet love this trope? So much so that he not only considers his own daughters (as well as everyone in the world sans Elmer) guinea pigs, he's also sired them purely For Science.
We also have Fermet, who "tested the extent of their immortality" by stabbing hot fire pokers into Chez's eye sockets, throwing him into a fire, and bathing him in acid, etc, etc. For about 100 years. For science. Or so he claims. After Czeslaw kills him and absorbs his memories he states it was just a justification for him to indulge his sadism. And he should know.
Szilard is another example. His entire feud with Maiza is he wouldn't share the secret of immortality. His plotline in 1930s revolves around completing the Grand Panacea. He regularly eats other immortals to acquire their knowledge, and has been known to grant partial immortality to people specifically so he could eat them, too.
Doc from Hellsing explicitly states in the final volume that his whole motive was to push the boundaries of science. In the name of science, he created ghouls, Nazi vampires, cyborgs, weapons, a catboy with a tenuous grasp on causality, and assisted in the near total destruction of London. All For Science.
Doctor Stein has the battle cry of "I am going to dissect you!" before he starts to fight. It's not just based for his fights alone, though he has said it to Crona and Medusa (who he might want to do even more with...or not.Either way, she'd probably like it.), and in the anime, Marie, he has also dissected his best friend repeatedly for years without him noticing, and wants to dissect the boss's son. He also dissected an endangered bird in his homeroom class. For his own amusement. All of this seems to have even caused a Running Gag amongst the fans. "For Science!" for Stein isn't a motivation so much as it is a cover. Flashbacks to his childhood reveal that he's actually more of a latent serial killer who has channeled his compulsion to dissect things towards positive ends.
Arachne's creation of the Demon Weapons suggests this. We're not given an explanation why she put Eibon's work into practice, only that she did so. If Medusa does have a masterplan to deal with the Kishin, her enjoyment of her methods - and justification to Stein - rather suggests she is in part doing stuff for the scientific hell of it.
Lloyd in Code Geass, so much. When he gets the chance, he even asks "I wonder if you'd let me analyze that Geass... For Science, of course." Turns out he uses the "For Science" mentality to avoid the emotional stress of losing friends, and in a later episode what he says to Nina implies that it's also so that he won't feel the responsibility for making weapons that kill a lot of people.
Werner Locksmith in Planetes, who named his ship the von Braun (after his namesake) stands as a rare realistic, serious study of this trope. Science is Love + Love is Pain = reader bawls.
"It's okay, I won't be replaced even if I blow up one or two research facilities. Do you know why? Because I am a man of exceptional talent who can only love spaceships."
Darker Than Black features the whimsical Dr. Schrader, who works for The Syndicate because of the opportunities it gives him to research. At their bequest, he creates a device which will wipe out all Contractors and Dolls, even though he has no real grudge against them. If said device didn't work as planned, it's quite plausible it would have killed everyone on earth, but Schraeder still tries to start it up, even with No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup. When the protagonist manages to prevent the genocide by destroying the machine, far from being angry, Dr. Schrader is impressed as it gives him something new to study.
In A Certain Magical Index, this trope seems to be the driving force of most of Academy City's scientists, doing crazy, incredibly dangerous and downright evil experiments just to make a Level 6 Esper. And according to Therestina Kihara Lifeline, this is the entire purpose of Academy City.
That is quite an under-exaggeration: Every single member of the HUGE Kihara Family believes in this idea. Kihara Gensei, Therestina's grandfather, goes as far as saying that he would be fine with turning Mikoto Misaka (the #3 level 5) into a level 6 for a few seconds even if it would end up blowing up all of Academy City including himself right afterwards because he would have achieved scientific progress, which outweighs everyone else's deaths...!!!
In Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, Verde not only willingly electrocutes a 5-year old (albeit a very annoying, electricity-proof one), but attempts to kill a 15 year old mafia boss, and numerous other things that make him kind of an antagonistic jerkass, all in the name of science.
Franken Fran is dedicated to preserving life, cultivating love, and if those are absent, she'll do it For Science! Even when taking a case for the two former reasons, it'll still be a case study in Weird Science.
A number of people in Fullmetal Alchemist use this as justification for their evil deeds. The most notable, however, is Shou Tucker who transmutes his entire family into monstrous chimeras for science.
One scientist that Ed and Al fight in a flashback in the Conqueror of Shamballa movie attempts human transmutation as a last resort to create an army of undead soldiers to fight for him, believing that the ban on human transmutation is just a silly taboo standing in the way of scientific progress. Of course, he quickly realizes that there's a damn good reason it's outlawed.
The world of Gundam SEED was sent straight to Hell by scientists (and humanity in general) abandoning all moral and ethical guidelines in the pursuit of progress. They eventually succeed in the giving rise to the Coordinator race, only to later regret it all and try to undo their work by preaching the necessity of killing off the Coordinators to their fellow "Naturals." The Coordinators, for their part, instead view themselves as the pinnacle of humankind and believe that the Naturals have been left behind, destined to do nothing but be a burden to progress. Both sides then take it a step further by committing inhuman experiments or perpetuating draconian social policies in the name of progressing their race beyond the other. This eventually leads to the Bloody Valentine incident and the start of both subsequent wars, which will cost billions of lives.
The man who exemplifies this in story, not as a perpetrator but as a victim, is Rau Le Creuset. The product of an experiment that made hundreds of clones for research money, before eventually killing them off because they were flawed, he manages to survive by killing off the man who bankrolled the whole thing before casting him out, Al Da Flaga. Because he's a clone, he's dying by age twenty eight and is in constant pain, all the while, humanity is ripping itself apart to undo the very scientific advancement that it once worshiped almost religiously.
Rau Le Creuset: They thirsted for knowledge. They sought to fulfill their desires. And ultimately, they forgot why they were doing it. Even as they proclaimed their reverence for human life, they began toying with it. And then they began destroying it!
Surprisingly averted in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Once the Nazis discover the Pillar Men, you'd expect them to try and figure out how to harness their power for their own use, only for it to blow up in their faces. Instead, they realize that the Pillar Men are far beyond their control and start experimenting on them to figure out a way to kill them...only for it to blow up in their faces anyway.
An issue of the Postboot Legion of Super-Heroes features a group of (faux-)suicide-bombing space scientists, the Objective Order, on a rampage against mystical forces, "For science!!"
In X-Men #41, there's a scientist who invents a nuclear-powered machine that both creates earthquakes and irradiates the ground. His colleagues think he's nuts for inventing such a dangerous weapon, but he assures them it will only be used for the benefit of mankind.
In one Dilbert comic, Dilbert invents a quantum computer capable of interacting with matter in a parallel universe to solve complex equations. Dogbert points out that according to Chaos Theory, the shifts he causes could very well destroy the other universe. Dilbert's response? "Shift happens." (And Dogbert adds "Fire it up.")
Occasionally the Batmanrogue Scarecrow is portrayed as using his Fear Toxin on people For Science. Other times, it is part of his backstory - he began by studying how fear works simply For Science, but eventually becomes so obsessed with it that he crosses over into Mad Scientist territory.
In Heroic Age: Villains, ex-Nazi scientist Baron Wernher von Blitzschlag's "goal" is listed as "challenges". Indisputably a genius, the ancient man seeks nothing more than an endeavor that will distract him for more than a moment. Products of this desire include Ragnarok (a crazed clone of Thor) and KIA (a crazed clone of MVP).
Also in Marvel, we have A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), the premiere hyper-science villainous organization on Earth. If they're not being paid to build something devastating and/or horrifying, they're probably working on it anyway.
"We spend so much time figuring out HOW to catch the Hulk, maybe we should have figured out whether we should catch the Hulk."
In the Doctor Who Magazine comics, the Fourth Doctor encountered a guy called "The Collector," who captured people from different points in time and space to study them. He was otherwise an all-right kind of guy, though: "I know it's wrong to kidnap, but study keeps me sane."
In IDW's Transformerscomics, Mad Scientist Brainstorm has a bad habit of making crazy weapons, just to see if he can. It's fortunate as the devil's eyebrows that he's with the Autobots. He's spent his whole life working at various institutes for unethical scientific experiments, and spent a lot of time getting into trouble for said unethical experiments. Probably because whatever he designs is usually so outrageously insane only the imminent collapse of all space-time would possibly justify even considering their use.
Uxie from the Poké Wars series joined Ho-oh's Kill All Humans coalition solely because he believes extinction of humanity would advance the progress of the world. This trope is also the very reason that he's implied to plan on clone Ash, something he's well aware Ho-oh would never approve of.
In The New Retcons it's revealed that in the sixties the government decided to simulate the effects nuclear war would have on wildlife by seeding out of the way patches of land with radiation. One of the places chosen was a small farming community outside Toronto. Later, a few politicians and businessmen colluded to let the community be built up despite the radiation. That town? Millborough, Ontario, Canada.
This is Colress's motive in the Pokemon fanfic Natural Liberated. He wants to help N develop his PsychicPowers so he can test their limits and see their effects on people.
Films — Animated
Subverted in The Secret of NIMH: the rats have no idea (nor does the audience) why they or the other animals at NIMH were being experimented on. Nicodemus surmises that the humans did so simply "to satisfy some scientific curiosity." This is somewhat different from the book, in which it's made clear that the scientists are working to increase the intelligence of the rats and mice in their test group.
Dr. Fuji: We dreamed of creating the world's strongest Pokémon...and we succeeded.
Up: This is Charles Muntz's justification for hunting the snipe.
Self-proclaimed Evil Genius Jumba Jookiba from Lilo & Stitch seems to have created his genetic experiments just for the heck of it. Although he delights in describing the evil applications of his creations, he seems to have no grand plans for them. In the original movie, he notes that he never gave Experiment 626 (Stitch) a higher purpose.
Films — Live-Action
In Europa Report, this is the crew's motivation to go on with the mission after things start to go wrong.
"What does a life matter compared to the breadth of knowledge to be learned?"
In Disturbing Behavior, it is revealed that the Ax-CrazyMad Scientist thinks that doing behavioral modifications on high school students (including his own daughter!) is acceptable because "Science is GOD!"
In Bats, Obviously EvilMad Scientist Dr. McCabe initially justifies creating the eponymous (killer and super-intelligent) bats with the words "I'm a scientist. That's what we do. Make everything a little bit better." It's later hinted that it was a secret government project, but still you have to wonder why the protagonists accepted that justification so well...
In The Black Hole, professor Reinhardt turns the entire crew of his ship into mindless zombie androids and tries to kill the crew of the Palomino, just to satisfy his obsession of traveling into a black hole.
Danger Death Ray (Spoofed by Mystery Science Theater 3000) featured the inventor of the eponymous Death Ray insisting that he'd built it only for peaceful purposes. It's a death ray. What sort of "peaceful purposes" you could find for a device which has absolutely no use other than blowing stuff up? This was parodied by Mitchel & Webb where the Giant Death Ray turned out to be a steampunk barcode reader built by Professor Death.
Day of the Dead has Doctor Logan, who becomes so obsessed with teaching the zombies good manners that when some of the few remaining soldiers are killed, he uses them as subjects and/or uses their remains to reward his subjects for good behavior. The other scientists are guilty of this to a much lesser degree. After all, what they discover is interesting, but doesn't show any kind of applicability as a weapon or defense.
Subverted with Dr. Serizawa in the original Gojira. He states that his discovery of how to create the "oxygen destroyer" was purely for research and believes it can be used to benefit humanity... but ONLY if it's used for something other than a weapon, since he fears that exposing his discoveries to the world may lead to another war. It's a subversion because he eventually does use his scientific discoveries for the good of mankind by using the Oxygen Destroyer to kill Godzilla.
Jurassic Park provides the page quote. Indeed, the entire park quickly becomes a prime example of Didn't Think This Through, in both the movies and books. Breeding dangerous predators like T. rexes and raptors? Check! Putting poisonous plants in the lobby solely for Rule of Cool? Check! Ordering construction of a hotel after releasing pterosaurs into the area and not checking to see if they would attack the workers? Another check!
Hammond: How can we stand in the light of discovery... and NOT act?
Malcolm: What's so great about discovery? It's a violent and penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call "discovery", I call the rape of the natural world.
The Three Stooges short "We want our Mummy" has the trio as detectives hunting for a missing archeologist and the lost Tomb of King Rutentuten, and will be paid $5,000 dollars for their commitment to science.
Moe: For Science!
Larry: For Science!
Curly: For 5,000 Bucks!
The Mummy (1932): When Frank is telling Helen how he unwrapped Princess Anck-es-en-Amon's most personal possessions, she cringes, exclaiming "How could you?" "Had to! Science, you know," Frank breezily replies.
Becomes somewhat of a gag in Back To The Future Part III, where Doc and Marty hijack a train at gunpoint, which they need to make their time machine reach the speed needed for the travel. When the unimpressed driver asks if it's a robbery, Doc hesitates and then answers "It's a science experiment!".
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: The reason Rex turns evil and does not reveal to his sister that he survived. Cobra Commander even gives "science requires sacrifice" (or words to that effect) as his explanation for his actions.
V for Vendetta: The head lady doctor who is also the coroner, lists this as the main way she looked the other way.
Iron Man 2: It seemed Howard Stark earnestly wanted the Arc reactor to help benefit mankind and not "to shut the hippies up" as Stane claimed in the first movie. He notably also had Anton Vanko deported for wanting to cash in on the technology.
In Nine Days Of One Year, Gusev charges ahead with his nuclear research, disregarding not only ethical concerns about his work possibly getting used for an H-bomb, but also the fatal doses of radiation that he's absorbing in the course of his experiments.
Tanya Huff's novel Blood Pact has a villainous Department head who is testing bacterian reanimation of corpses (to rebuild organs) and to get a subject for her experiments murders Vicki Nelson's mother and takes the body away. She is assisted by a genuine Mad Scientist for whom the death of the other assistant means only a disturbance in the data.
Discworld's Leonard of Quirm is a strange mix. He is appallingly naive about human nature, declaring that an effective nuclear bomb would have no military application, though it might be useful in the mining industry(a nod to Alfred Nobel inventing dynamite, and who was also unable to foresee people wanting to use it for anything other than mining). He is scathing about Colon and Nobby's pipe dreams about a weaponised version of his submarine Going-Under-The-Water-Safely Device, and then subsequently designs one himself, just to see if he could. Perhaps a little less naive following his conversation with Colon and Nobby, he then destroys the plans.
He's spoken trustingly at least once of how, if people tried to use one of his destructive devices for evil, "the government would put a stop to things before they went too far."
Quirm's faith may not be misplaced, considering the government consists of Magnificent Bastard lord Vetinari who does not even slightly desire war and conquest(having actively stopped it in one story). He does however desire things to run smoothly and with as little fuss as possible, and would indeed put a stop to Quirm's inventions being used for evil ends.
Dr. Qwi Xux in the Star Wars Expanded Universe embodies this trope: she's the genius scientist behind the Death Star, the Sun Crusher, and the World Devastators... but she has no idea that they're weapons, and simply takes joy at the creation of works of scientific genius. This is lampshaded when Han points out that the names probably should have been a clue.
Qwi thought the Death Star could be used on uninhabited planets and thus their ores mined much more easily, inexpensively, and safely, the Sun Crusher could be used for planned detonations of unstable old stars that might otherwise supernova unexpectedly and be a hazard to navigation, and so on. She's still a bit flummoxed at trying to explain the names, with the best she can do being "Well, they were just code names!" (At that point, she started to realize how weak her rationalizations were, and sought out the files that confirmed her inventions really were used for exactly what they sounded like.) It was less that she was just doing science for science's sake, and more that she was so in love with science and so massively naive that she didn't pick up on what she was actually doing.
It's also because she was taken, taught and brainwashed as a child to the point of being fairly broken psychologically — she's almost a sort of Cloudcuckoolander/Bunny-Ears Lawyer scientist.
The Academy of Lagado, from Gulliver's Travels, seems to mainly be staffed by hopeless incompetents regularly reciting this to themselves as justification for their nonsensical and meaningless experiments. There is no possible reason to breed naked sheep, but apparently, science demands that they make the effort.
The Professor in Haruki Murakami's novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is perhaps the best example of this trope in literature. He essentially causes the nameless protagonist's (boku, 'I') mind to disconnect from all reality and degenerate, directly causing his death, in the course of involuntarily-performed experiments to further research which is 'purely' scientific and implied to be laughably obscure. Unlike most Mad Scientists, however, (of which the Professor is otherwise a perfect example) the Professor is compassionate and genuinely sorry for the harm (death) he has caused.
AUGUSTUS STRATTON. He actually yells FOR SCIENCE! on a regular basis. The story he's from is actually called SCIENCE!, or, True Science. Same thing. His only motivation is finding truth and reality, something he believes only he can discover, for he is the one true scientist!
While Dr. Quincy Wyatt of Nancy Werlin's novel Double Helix does have an intention to use his research to some better end, he remarks, after being asked of the legality of his work, "What a stupid thing to focus on Eli. I thought you'd be interested in the science here."
Jack, the main character of The Chronicles of Professor Jack Baling, justifies his study of a perpetual motion machine and his eventual murder of Nico on the basis that figuring out how it works will mean infinite renewable energy and the solution to a host of the world’s problems.
A Song of Ice and Fire: In the Citadel, they cut open the dead to study life. Qyburn cut open the living to study death. He's lucky that they only took his maester's chain.
In Andre Norton's Forerunner Foray, Riss explains at the end that he can protect her from the Patrol because her abilities will reveal much about ancient civilizations.
The novel Flowers for Algernon, which is about a mentally retarded man who is turned into a genius with the help of neurosurgery. Even though he becomes a brilliant scientist, the novel also shows the ways in which his newfound intelligence wrecks his life by alienating him from everyone around him.
In Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, Dr. Felix Hoenikker creates ice-nine, a compound with the potential to permanently freeze all water on Earth, basically out of curiosity. It was his solution to the problem, posed to him by an official in the US Marines, of how to get rid of the annoyance of mud on long marches.
Pavlovs Dogs has this as the dubious justification of batshit insane Doctor Crispin.
Live Action TV
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: As a psychology major, Riley's more curious interests occasionally pop up, like when Xander was accidentally doubled.
Riley: Psychologically, this is fascinating! Doesn't it make everyone wanna lock them in separate rooms and do experiments on them?
"Scientific methods": where some aliens experiment on the crew... by randomly changing their genes. There are even lethal cases. They make B'Elanna and Paris horny too. I'd hate to think what that was in aid of...
In the episode "Jetrel", Neelix encounters the scientist who developed the weapon of mass destruction that destroyed his personal homeworld.
Jetrel: If I had not discovered the Cascade it would have been someone else, don't you see? It was a scientific inevitability, one discovery flowing naturally to the next. Something so enormous as science will not stop for something as small as man, Mister Neelix. Neelix: So you did it for science. Jetrel: For my planet, and yes, for science. To know whether or not it could be done. It's good to know how the world works. It is not possible to be a scientist unless you believe that all the knowledge of the universe and all the power it bestows is of intrinsic value to everyone and one must share that knowledge and allow it to be applied, and then be willing to live with the consequences.
In Stargate Universe, Rush lives this trope to the core. He strands the cast on Destiny rather than lose the chance to get there. When power shuts down and they're all going to die, his primary complaint is that they've lost the opportunity of a lifetime to explore the universe.
Almost every scientist on Eureka does this at some point or the other. Unattended consequences have almost destroyed the town/nation/universe on several occasions.
This seems to be Topher's primary motivation in Dollhouse.
The UnSub in the Criminal Minds two-parter "To Hell...and Back" tries justifying his actions using this trope, almost word for word. The earlier "Scared to Death" had the killer claim his victims "sacrificed themselves for science".
Alton Brown of Good Eats says this trope word for word when trying to coax his cameraman into getting into his "Vomitron" machine to test the effects of ginger on motion sickness.
Stuart Radzinsky (and to a lesser extent, the rest of the Dharma Initiative) on LOST lives this trope to the core. How does it end? With the Swan Incident. Although, to be fair, it's not clear that Radzinsky alone caused the Incident - the atomic bomb probably helped.
ReGenesis wonderfully inverts this. People in it For Science tend to be patient and reasonable regarding their studies. Almost every disaster is caused by people who have some practical real world application in mind because they are either under pressure to get results or convinced that the world is suffering without the benefits of their ideas.
Sheldon: That was not a betrayal, that was an experiment to determine at what concentration food starts tasting "mothy".
Leonard: You put moths in my food?
Sheldon: For science.
The West Wing invokes this more than once. First by Sam Seaborn in answer to the question, "Why should we go to Mars?" "Because it's what's next." Later by a scientific researcher. Why should we build the superconducting supercollider, what practical results will it get? None whatsoever, research for its own sake.
iCarly: Carly uses this excuse in iOMG to get Gibby to help her electrocute her brother for their semester project.
House: One of House's applicants injects a patient with thallium so it looks like she has polio, then proceeds to "cure" her with massive doses of Vitamin C. The reason? He says he's seen polio be cured with this method, but the study that was to prove it in the 40s ran out of money before it worked. House gives him a head start before he calls the cops.
In Firefly, Book obliquely hints that this may have been part of the reason why the Academy did so much physical damage to River's brain during the process of giving her Psychic Powers, suggesting that they may have done what they did "just to see how much she could take." Knowing what we do about his Dark and Troubled Past, he might be right.
It should be noted that Simon disagrees, and believes that there was a specific purpose behind the torture.
The X-Files had its share of Mad Scientists or Deadly Doctors.
In "Young at Heart", doctor Ridley, an outcast in the medical community, experimented with reversed aging process on ill children and grew on one of his test subject (a prisoner and sociopathic killer) a salamander hand.
Doctor Pollidori who is a classic mad evil scientist from "The Post-Modern Prometheus" fits this trope perfectly. When Mulder and Scully ask him why he would create a deformed fly with legs growing out of its mouth, he answers simply that because he can. He admits that this work could be done theoretically on humans, too, but that it would go against every scientific convention. However, it's revealed at the end that he did do experiments on people as well.
Fringe just loves this trope. Walter Bishop is an obvious example, as are Nina Sharp, William Bell and most villains they encounter.
In "The Long Game", Adam has an neural interface implanted in the year 200,000 so he can access and transmit scientific knowledge back to 2012, while he claims he did to advance mankind when caught. The Doctor recognises however that he's really just taking advantage of time travel to make money and destroys the recording, before exiling him from the TARDIS and warning him that he'll have to avoid attention if he doesn't want to have people cutting into his head for the future-tech inside.
The Time Lords "official" story is that they created Time Travel in order to observe the universe, but not interfere with it. In reality however, they often seem to really be against anyone else trying on their hat, not just the Daleks.
The Rani in a nutshell. She was banished from Gallifrey after an incident where she used the President's cat for an experiment that went horribly wrong. She has absolutely no qualms about using live or human(oid) test subjects in her experiments, including those from different times. Her best justification for turning people into trees in "The Mark of the Rani" is that they'll live longer this way.
Paracelsus in Warehouse 13 is a Mad Scientist who experimented with Artifacts during the days of Warehouse 9 (16th century) in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). What was his latest experiment? Making his brother and the brother's family immortal to test the Philosopher's Stone at the cost of an entire village. When his horrified brother finds out the truth, Paracelsus simply brushes him off with something like "casualties of progress". Having had enough, the Warehoues agents bronze him, until he is de-bronzed in the 21st century and decides to continue his experiments. He succeeds in making himself immortal at the cost of a group of terminally-ill patients. Once again, the word "progress" is used. Then he takes control of the Warehouse and kicks everyone else out, except for Claudia who tries to battle him for Caretakership.
One image in the Comedy Goldmine section of the website Something Awful depicts a young Goon trying to see if he won't get stung by a bee if he "steps on it really really fast"... For Science! He actually even says "For Science!" It... doesn't work out so well for the kid.
Gond the Wondermaker, the deity of invention in Dungeons & Dragons, is the one the Forgotten Realms have to thank for gunpowder, primitive firearms, grenades, and all the other joys of scientific progress. Somewhat unsurprisingly, most players choose to ignore the existence of his creations, if not the deity himself. Given alignment is True Neutral.
The Clan Tzimisce in Vampire: The Masquerade. Why did you take that human apart, piece by piece, while he was still alive? For science! Why did you fuse sixteen ghouls into a giant dinosaur-like monster? For science! Why did you put a mouth on your own tongue? For science!
And their spiritual successors, the Ordo Dracul of Vampire: The Requiem, may not have flesh-crafting, but they do have the same pragmatic attitude. One of their common initiation rituals involves a student randomly selecting a mortal, horribly murdering them, and then tracking how the world is changed by their death.
For another World of Darkness example, while they aren't likely to practice it, this trope is at the heart of the Frankenstein Lineage of Prometheans. The other Promethean Lineages were created because the demiurge in question wanted something out of their creation - companionship, servitude, rule, or an understanding of the realms invisible. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, just made his monsters because he wanted to.
The Adeptus Mechanicus has set loose more than one Eldritch Abomination in their pursuit of even a fragment of a Standard Template Construct. They have a particularly poor track record regarding Necrons — the minute they find a tomb full of the slumbering constructs, they inevitably start poking the things until they wake up. And if they aren't allowed to do this, they sulk. Just to add promethium to the fire, they also caused a SpaceMarine chapter to go renegade by stealing its holiest relic for back-engineering and threatening them with orbital artillery in the hope of getting them to back down. And then yet another Eldritch Abomination turned up to take it off them before they were able to figure out how it worked.
Ork Mekboys have a single driving purpose in life: to create a weapon/vehicle/mobile fortress/spaceship bigger, 'arder, fasta and shootier than anything ever made before. To quote Kog da Flymek: "Wot's faster than a warbuggy, more killy than a warbike, and flies through da air like a bird? I got no bleedin' idea, but I'm gonna find out." (Answer: the first Deffkopta.)
In The Golden Apple, Ulysses and his Dwindling Party are approached by rocket scientists who want a volunteer to try out their new gadget that they say will save the human race from certain doom. Doc volunteers himself and takes the first ride in the untested rocket. The good news: the rocket works. The bad news:
Ulysses: But how is he gonna get back? The Scientist: Oh dear, oh dear! I never thought of that.
The Great Beings in are living examples of this trope. This how they justify putting laser cannons on giant scorpion monsters.?
Go to the Makuta species to find any variation of brutal warriors, cunning schemers or Evil slash Mad scientists that do half of their experiments For Science and For the Evulz. For examples, look no further than the Necrofinch (a bird that keeps singing even after death), the Electric Spider (Exactly What It Says on the Tin) or Blade Burrowers (a species designed to die within three days because the one that requested them for his army was acting like a douche).
Minecraft, as demonstrated here. Redstone and various mods allow the player to impersonate GLaDOS indefinitely.
World of Warcraft: Intentionally invoked when nerdy dragon Maloriak shouts "How well does the mortal shell handle extreme temperature change? Must find out! FOR SCIENCE!" when he's trying to murder you. This is the motivation for a lot of Forsaken activities these days, with sub-sects like the Royal Apothecary Society getting increasingly dubious with their experiments. Look no further than a quest called, "The Forsaken Blight and You: How Not to Die."
The Umbrella Corporation from Resident Evil - in fact, the Resident Evil series - is the poster child for this trope. Even their attempts to commercialize all their zombie-making uberviruses were just a way to keep the real objectives of the founders going, which range from insane to comically insane but mostly center around reformatting the human race into an ideal species. Everyone employed by Umbrella also uses this as an excuse for committing murder about as often as regular people get haircuts. William Birkin's a particularly egregious example, what with the whole G-virus thing.
This is the motivation — or at least the excuse — of Caulder/Stolos from Advance Wars: Days of Ruin; indeed, until the last chapter it's his only real characteristic.
Caulder: Have you ever watched yourself die? It's FASCINATING!
Played very strait with the Arisen, a race of half undead half machines from Allods Online. Who use this as their cover for any and all of their questionable actions, much to the dismay of their allies, who are unable or unwilling to intervene because every technological marvel throughout their empire is thanks to their rotting friends.
Everything that Hojo from Final Fantasy VII has ever done EVER. Lucrecia Crescent, Dr. Hollander, Grimoire Valentine, and a few others fall under this as well.
Then there is his mentor, Doctor Creed, and his boss, Doctor Aeon.
His name is a pun on Wernher von Braun, see Real Life Examples.
This is the raison d'ętre of Dr. Odine in Final Fantasy VIII, who doesn't care who he works for or what his inventions are used for as long as he gets to keep researching and inventing things. When he discovers that his research will eventually be developed into a working machine, which in turn is what's allowing the Big Bad to project her consciousness back in time and wage war in the present, his reaction is to be thrilled that his ideas will be put to use.
In Impossible Creatures, "For science!" is one of Dr. Lucy Willing's unit acknowledgment quotes. She's more of a Wrench Wench than a mad scientist, but it does take most of the campaign to convince her that the Mix-and-Match Critters technology is too dangerous to exist.
The Half-Life mod Science & Industry added a suicide-bomb weapon in one update, and it didn't take long for the customary cry before detonating one to become "FOR SCIENCE!", giving it pseudoreligious overtones. To be clear, it's the security guards who do the suicide-exploding, rather than the scientists. Still, they would have to be pretty dedicated to science to happily die for their company, even if they do get cloned back to life.
There's some bit of Truth in Television to this, as various arms developers have indeed been experimenting with tanks with legs, on the principle that they can move on certain terrains other heavy vehicles can't, often leave less impact on said terrain (and thus would be harder to trace), and can be positioned for firing more easily. Having your nuclear option small, mobile, and relatively unrestricted by terrain is a pretty big tactical advantage.
Curiously enough, Sigint said in one of the radio conversations that creating a bipedal tank was pretty expensive, and impractical and it wouldn't have as many applications in war as it would a tank with threads. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that he was Donald Anderson and would be revealed to be the DARPA Chief many years later! Y'know, for a technology expert, Sigint was rather narrow-minded with this.
Aperture Science's company motto is "We do what we must because we can". Most of their projects turn out to be comedic scientific overkill, such as creating a fuel system de-icer that is also an artificially intelligent supercomputer and inventing a device that bends the laws of space-time for "potential shower curtain applications". The founder of Aperture Science was insane from mercury poisoning when he started the company.
Black Mesa. Everything that goes on there isn't so much for the benefit of mankind as a whole but for the sole purpose of tearing physics a new one. Give me one good reason why they gave their theoretical physicists fairly comprehensive firearms training if the result of their insane meddling was going to be naught but sunshine, puppies, and candy. This goes even further than that with Cave Johnson's tests, related through prerecorded audio. Blue paint instead of repulsion gel, mantis men, and replacing human blood with gasoline to name a few.
Johnson actually lampshades this at one point. "I'll be honest, we're throwing science at the wall here to see what sticks. No idea what it'll do". He then suggests the best and worst case scenarios being superpowers and tumors ("Which we'll cut out!") The hidden joke for people who are actually familiar with science is that every single one of their tests violates both scientific ethical standards, and basic scientific testing protocols. Also, several of their inventions would make them millionaires, if they bothered to use it in anything other than testing.
This is the defining characteristic of the University of Planet in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. Upside: incredibly fast progress up the Tech Tree. Downside: unethical experiments inspire the lower classes into mob riots. They're portrayed as Neutral Neutral, though, considering there are even meaner people in Planet.
The witch Deneb from Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. She created the creatures that have later been re-used, one way or another in every other Ogre Battle game: the Pumpkin Head. Which is a man whose head has been replaced with a Jack-O-Lantern. By the time you get there she has stopped experimenting on humans and is apparently doing large-scale experiments on the lands around her castle instead. (With large areas on the map being purple instead of the normal brown for hills/mountains.) And the only reason given for why she did any of the things she did is that she was "researching some new magic" and "you know how important research is to Deneb". In short, she did it FOR SCIENCE MAGIC!
This is all the motivation Ratchet has for his little tinkerings, including, but not limited to, electrified underwear —"Stunderwear".
If Fallout 3's resident Mad Scientist Dr. Lesko is attacked, he shouts a number of phrases like "science always triumphs!" and "I strike this blow for science!" while fighting. While she never actually comes out and says it, Moira Brown's motivation is For Science, never once losing her veneer of optimism while asking you to perform increasingly perilous tasks all for the sake of gathering information for her Wasteland Survival Guide.
Fallout: New Vegas plays this completely straight with Old World Blues. The Think Tanks are all about doing questionable things (such as replacing the Courier's spine/heart/brain with cybernetic replacements), and everything that you're helping them with is in the name of Science!note and no, it's not "science", it's "Science!" The fact that they're all addicted to Mentats (mental stimulants/the Fallout equivalent of Speed) doesn't help a single bit.
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect has the Brotherhood of UltraScience which is dedicated specifically to science, with the only goal being the achievement of immortality, no matter how many zombie byproducts it takes. They succeed... sort of. The Big Bad is still not immune to bullets.
In Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, when you are in the Marquis de Singe's lab. If you examine the Vole-Powered Generator, the doctor will explain that it is a machine that uses rodents to make lightning. Guybrush will then exclaim "Why would you do that?" to which de Singe naturally replies "Science!" This is practically the Marquis' catch phrase. His one weapon you see him with is labeled in the concept sketches as the "Porcelain, Bronze, and Wood Gun of Science!"
The proclaimed motive of Lieblich Pharmeceuticals in Ever17. Except it's really just For Money! and For Immortality!
Again in Remember11, where Lieblich is swapping people's minds For Science! and so that they can contact a being that exists beyond the concept of time
Change the word science to magic and you have the motives of essentially every (non main character) magus in the Nasuverse. It's rather telling that the policy of the Magic Association isn't 'Don't kill masses of people For Science!' but 'Don't get caught killing masses of people For Science!'
Dwarf Fortress is still in development, and is already incredibly complex, with all its ins and outs being far from fully documented. Because of this, members of the online fan community regularly share their discoveries of new idiosyncrasies and/or awesome things you can do in-game. For example, there is an ongoing effort to find a way to sink a capsule full of dwarves to the bottom of an ocean without crushing or drowning them; no success yet. Anytime a person posts on the forums asking if something is possible, and that thing has not been tried yet, the poster is implored to try the thing out "for !!SCIENCE!!" and report the results.
In Scribblenauts, attempting to summon "SCIENCE" nets you a Large Hadron Collider (see below).
The Space Pirates of Metroid often perform various types of SCIENCE, almost all of them military related. If it isn't a weapon, it's a Super Soldier or similar. They usually steal tech, but tend to make improvements or adjustments to the designs, and tend to create or discover new things, as well. They often fail at it, though, which has the troops throughly despise the careless Science Team. They even say: "Science Team has vapor for brains" after their experiment to reverse-engineer the Morph Ball goes horribly wrong.
[Heavy is having open-heart surgery, but isn't under anesthetic, and Medic is holding his heart in his hands, trying to see how it will react to the Beta Medigun. The heart explodes, knocking Medic's pet dove Archimedes off his perch with a piece of flesh. Heavy's head is down, but he picks it up when he hears the noise.]
Heavy: "What was noise?"
Medic: "The sound of progress, my friend."
The Engineer is up there, too, if the para-text concerning how he acquired the Gunslinger are any indication. (Paraphrased: "Robot hand + hack saw + a lot of alcohol = why the heck not?")
The process of crafting a hat is known as "SCIENCE" on /v/.
In Kingdom Hearts, this is Xehanort's justification for all he did. Everything he did was an attempt to reforge the X-Blade, which would cause Kingdom Hearts to appear and Keyblade wielders would war against each other over it. Why? Because he wants to know how the New World would turn out after the war
In Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2, doing something For Science actually leads to a morally right decision, at least within the context of the game. When Lemon Browning's Ridiculously Human Robot W-17 AKA Lamia Loveless develops her own free will and decides to pull a Heel-Face Turn, Lemon, instead of wiping W-17's memories and restoring her original programming, decides to help her android escape, desiring to see how far her creation's free will will take itself.
The free MMO Dragon Nest offers an early quest with a blacksmith who wants you to gather some harpy feathers so he can design some new (flexible) armor. Upon returning the item to him, he will quickly fashion it into a vest, tackle you to the ground to force it onto you, and then shout "For SCIENCE!!" before stabbing you with a spear.
In the various My Sims games, Dr. F personifies this trope. When he's not telling you that "the F stands for robots," he's performing dangerous, painful, and pointless experiments on a robot named Tobor that he purposely designed to be intelligent enough to fear for its continued existence. When Tobor left his employment to open a 50s nostalgia diner, Dr. F decided to explode the janitor into space instead.
The Big Bad, Natla, in Tomb Raider has science as her motivation. Being a former ruler of Atlantis and being the only one from the mythical city left alive, she plans to create a race of mutants to speed up evolution so that only the strong can survive. The remake ditches this motivation for a different one.
In I Miss the Sunrise, EROS flip-flops with this. Some of the stuff they do is for a real purpose, but a lot of it is just because.
In particular, Willis is not bogged down by any of your silly "ethics" nonsense, and most of his projects have little to no applicability (or if they do, it's a secondary consideration).
Specific example: Once upon a time, an EROS research facility set up an experiment. The best case scenario was the successful reallocation of matter. The worst-case scenario? Unintentional spaghettification of all reality (read: the Shine). They went through with it — twice, in fact, the second attempt causing their facility to implode.
In Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, the researcher Colress wishes to draw out the full potential of Pokémon no matter the cost— even if it means aiding Team Plasma in a plan that could lead to the destruction of the Unova region. Technically, he might zig-zag this trope. After he's defeated on the Plasma Frigate, what he says indicates that he would prefer that the interactions between Trainers and Pokemon be what draws out a Pokemon's full potential.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Consular's companion Tharan Cedrax has a strong aversion to danger...unless it's some untested, likely unethical, and fascinating piece of technology or scientific discovery. Sharing or preserving the technology or information, no matter what kind of atrocity has been committed or will likely be committed with it, is the fastest way to gain approval with him. When you get to Belsavis in the same game, you find out about cruel experiments that Republic scientists have been conducting on the alien prisoners. When one of the scientists tries to justify the experiments, he uses these exact two words.
Played for laughs in Mass Effect 3. You can get away with asking anything using this phrase.
Padok Wiks: In the interests of science...how do krogan mate?
Dr. Klamp in Parasite Eve reveals near the end of the game that science was his ambition from the start. He was secretly assisting the Big Bad, Eve, by giving her sperm that would eventually create the Ultimate Being.
In Xenosaga, Dr. Sellers; one of the games resident mad scientist's, does this ALL the time.
Riff in Sluggy Freelance is a mad scientist with awesome inventions who still lives with roommates in on-again off-again lower middle class poverty, all from not being able to make inventions that aren't destructive or useful in day to day life. This is parodied in the strip to the point his "Nice Earth" counterpart has won the Nobel Prize for focusing his inventions on peaceful and productive uses. Why he doesn't sell any of his various ray gun designs to the army. Furthermore, he turns out to be working as a freelance mad scientist for the evil Hereticorp corporation, which has turned this trope into a major advantage.
The Elegant Nova of Progression of Keychain of Creation is the embodiment of this trope. She performed experiments in a high-fantasy world to make cyborgs, developed a way to SCIENCE!!! herself into a giant cat, and owns a Friction Beam. Her Catch Phrase is "Science!"
The Cyantian Chronicles: (And For Art!) Why else would Genoworks Exotica genetically engineer people like winged kangaroos, potpourri skunk people and psychic raccoons.
Aside from the page image, this strip has "The F*** Not" as the science's answer to "Why?" (In this case, Why bears with jet packs?)
Bob the Angry Flower does this a lot. From unravelling the universe to see what happens (what happens involves a metal pipe if he tries to push the button), to building a robot designed to love, just for the data.
Played straight in the Bravoman webcomic here where Dr. Bomb creates Anti-Bravoman for no reason (because SCIENCE damn it).
A lot of things get done For Science! in Schlock Mercenary, but it's invoked by name in one strip of the Random Access Memorabilia arc, as two scientists blow off work in order to research the effects of television on their nanites.
Dr. Insano: Ha! Your super-conductor electromagnetism is no match for SCIENCE!
Nostalgia Critic: But, it is science!
Dr. Insano: WELL, I'M SCIENCIER!
Homestar Runner seems to think that "saying something smart" involves dressing in a lab coat, holding up a beaker, and shouting, "Science! Science again! I said science again!"
A more direct example is when Strong Bad is asked by a fan what would happen if someone poked Pom Pom (a character who resembles a giant balloon) with a pin. After attempting said experiment (it didn't end well... for him), he says "It had to be done in the name of science. Or more accurately, because some kid emailed me and told me to."
Sarge: Simmons this is no time to chat about your crackpot theories! I'll get the levitation ray! This is a crisis situation. Now to save us all, for science!
The irony being, that whilst he was 'saving them all for science', he was meant to be helping to save Donut, who had seemingly been crushed under a ship... and had just driven away with any tools they required to do this.
Also from Red vs. Blue, when the alien Crunchbite sees the energy sword in Tucker's hand and proceeds to beat the snot out of him, Church just stands over him saying:
Church: This could give us a clue about how these alien creatures fight... now stay there. For science.
Also, from an earlier season:
Tucker: I've never heard a grown man ask for so many piggyback rides.
"You as Gordon Freeman are, of course beyond all this and you manage to teleport to the alien world where you begin researching the shit out of everything in sight."
raocow uses "Science" as a Catch Phrase when exploring areas of levels in his Let's Plays. Specifically, he says "science" before jumping into potentially deadly pits/spikes/munchkins to check for hidden areas.
Gordon Freeman brings this up in Freeman's Mind regarding the development of the atomic bomb, and how the scientists pressed on despite fears that it would "catch the atmosphere on fire and burn up the whole planet." In reality, they had already determined that this was impossible by the time they actually tested the bomb.
Catchphrase of Lim the Weaponsmith/Scientist from the MMORPG Dragon Fable ... who is constantly at odds with Cysero, who is For Magic and batshit insane experiments that can actually destroy the world (or a large portion of it).
Basically the only reason the SCP Foundation keeps any safe-level SCPs around.
Professor Richard Impossible conducted an experiment that blew up in his face. It granted him incredible stretching powers, but left his family with painful and hideous mutations. Not only is he completely unsympathetic to their plight, but he treats them like prisoners most of the time less they embarrass him. Impossible is a thinly-veiled parody of The Fantastic Four's Reed Richards, who has slipped into this trope from Reed Richards Is Useless more than once (most recently during Civil War). Impossible's crowning moment of For Science comes when confronted by his wife that their son was missing, he ignores her and handwaves it:
Sally "What could possibly be more important than your own son?"
Richard "... sssssssssssscience?"
Doctor Venture himself does highly unethical science either for profit, or just because he can. One season two episode shows his to do list includes such things as "Spit in God's face". The page pic on Just Think of the Potential is from the pilot episode, where he believes the "Ooh-Ray" has nothing but peaceful applications, much like Tesla's "Peace Ray" (his character was different in the pilot).
Still, Rusty merely views science as a way of profit (even if his few non-derivative inventions tend to be Moral Event Horizons), while Dr. Impossible falls directly in this trope.
Unsurprisingly enough, he later becomes a supervillain after being told that he really didn't have far to go.
Lampshaded in an episode of Danny Phantom, when Danny asked his dad how much he would get paid for helping out in the lab. "I pay you to mow the lawn. This you'll do for the love of science!"
In Disney's Gargoyles, there may have been commercial applications for the Gargoyle genome, the procedure to create Mutates, or cloning, but Dr. Anton Sevarius only seemed interested in research and experimentation for its own sake. From the Bad Guys comic:
Sevarius: For science, which, as my associate Fang indicated, must ever move forward. Plus, there's the money. And I do so love... THE DRAMA!"
In the pilot episode of Time Squad, the eponymous squad has to deal with a horde of flesh eating robots created by Eli Whitney (seriously). When Otto asks Whitney why he did this, he replies "I wanted to do something to help mankind". How rampaging flesh eating robots could accomplish that is a question not even Whitney himself could answer...
An episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has an unknown villain break into a lab and steal genetically-engineered termites that also eat metal, concrete, and plastic. When April interviews the scientist who made them, she asks just what purpose the termites were supposed to serve besides the obvious destruction, and gets a blank look in response.
This seems to be the motivation behind half of Professor Frink's inventions in The Simpsons.
Grampa Simpson: What the hell is that? Professor Frink: Why, it's a death ray my good man, behold. Grampa: Hey, feels warm, kinda nice. Frink: Well it's just a prototype, with proper funding I'm confident this little baby could destroy an area the size of New York City. Grampa: But I want to help people, not kill them! Frink: Oh, well to be honest, the ray only has evil applications. You know my wife will be happy, she's hated this whole "death ray" thing from day one.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Frylock falls into this trope on occasion — the toilet that destroyed Carl's body springs to mind.
Whatever motivates Dr. Weird is up for grabs — this one might explain it. Some of it. The saner ones, anyway.
In one of the earlier scripts for the first episode, this is what motivates Dr. Weird. You can see it on the first season DVD.
"Now, beat him with the metal rod...FOR SCIENCE!"
Steve also invoked this phrase, asking if that was Dr. Weird's reason for making love to a lawnmower.
Professor Membrane from Invader Zim. Everything he does is either For Science or for destroying Santa Claus.
Membrane: (to his daughter) Sorry about imprisoning you and turning you into a media freak, honey. It was in the name of SCIENCE!
All the Sciencebots of Transformers are practically programed to do stupid things FOR SCIENCE. Perceptor has given up his personality to store more data in his head, Wheeljack built five fire-breathing dinosaurs (with not enough brains to tell their heads from their asses) just because he went to a natural history museum, and Starscream tends to clone himself and make others into drones. There was also that monkey Primacron who built Unicron's G1 cartoon-verse body.
In Adventure Time, Princess Bubblegum embodies this trope. She created a serum to bring Candy People back to life and it created zombies, she was able to find a cure, but another zombie outbreak starts when she decides to study the infected zombie flesh. She made Lemongrab for a successor and he was a total failure, her first failure to be precise, so she just put him in a castle and left him alone, which has caused nothing but trouble for her. Then she made a immortal sphinx named Goliad for a successor to her throne, but she gave her ultra powerful psychic abilities for no good reason and was only able to control her by making another immortal psychic sphinx to battle her mentally for all eternity.
She's just as bad in the comic adaption of the series. She created time travel just because she wanted to. She also implied that she caused a Why-wolf outbreak just so she could test a de-transformation serum.
Bubblegum's experiments have gotten such disastrous results with her showing such little empathy that Pendleton Ward had to say " “She’s like a scientist and she’s very cold and calculated. But not evil.”
From the original My Little Pony, we have the Gizmonks, two brother and sister monkey gadgeteers. Even they don't know what half their inventions are until they finish and try them.
This is how Heloise from Jimmy Two-Shoes tries to justify her more sociopathic tendencies...when she bothers to justify them, anyway.
Superfriends 1973/74 episode "The Menace of the White Dwarf". In the Back Story, Mad Scientist Raven was convicted of trying to jar the Earth from its axis, which might have caused the extinction of the entire human race.
Raven: I am a scientist! My experiment dictated that I take that risk!
Judge: A sense of humanity would have bid you not to!
In Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, one=shot villain Dr. Ograbco was determined to recreate the Big Bang and blow holes in the fabric of reality to prove the existance of alternate universe. This nearly gets everyone killed.
Stewie on Family Guy seems to have shelved his world domination plans and has not attempted to profit from his time machine, teleportation device, weather control device, mind control goggles or countless weapons, ray guns and shrink rays, seems he develops them purely FOR SCIENCE!
One day said to his good friend Freeman Dyson that he decided to quit military-related work when he realized that he had enjoyed working on the Manhattan project too much. Feynman and other rockstars were known to work on questions solely for their own amusement and never bother to publish. When others came to them to ask for help with a difficult question, the answer would be "I think that's right." followed by riffling through some papers, confirming that it had already been solved and saying "Yes, that's right." On one occasion a grad student was struggling with a limited case, and was devastated when Feynman rattled off a quick solution to the more general case then demonstrated that it simplified down to the limited case.
He was known to do this for a purpose, that purpose being the destruction of his grad students. He would look up the topic of a grad student's thesis and solve it himself, before putting it away for the eventuality that the student came to him for help. If they did...well, suffice to say, the idea that the basis of your thesis is so trivial that others can solve it and don't even bother to publish it can be extremely damaging to a human being.
He was particularly bad about this. He deliberately made his Principia Mathematica as obscure as possible so most people couldn't read it, and very nearly didn't publish the crucial third volume out of pique. He started the Principia because people were trying to work out the mathematics of gravitation and had to be convinced to publish it. Then he decided to invent and describe calculus instead. Also, his personal belongings contained vast reams of unpublished work (though a lot of it was For Alchemy rather than For Science).
Lord Henry Cavendish was a brilliant recluse, painfully shy, who published none of his work. None of his discoveries are credited to him because other people discovered them and did publish.
Inventor Nikola Tesla claimed to have invented an energy weapon for "peaceful purposes", predating the concept of "Mutually Assured Destruction" by decades. Tesla, however, had at least the sense to market the thing not as a "death" ray but as a "peace ray". But then again, Tesla was insane. The idea behind the Death Ray was somewhat different from Mutually Assured Destruction: As a weapon with effectively unlimited power but limited range, the idea was not that it would be too terrifying for anyone to ever use it, but rather that there would be no point in sending an army to invade someone's city if the defending city could vaporize the army before they got there. Unlike MAD, the death ray did not actually require that the actors involved behave sanely.
Alfred Nobel originally invented dynamite so that it would be safer to handle and for construction purposes such as blowing out tunnels and clearing debris. Soon however people started figuring out how to use it as a weapon. He also turned the Bofors company from mainly producing iron to making cannons and chemicals for firing them. Nobel created the Nobel Prizes when he was falsely reported as dead and his obituary described him as a reprehensible murderer-by-proxy. To contemporary pacifist Baroness Bertha von Suttner, Nobel had this to say:
"Perhaps my factories will put an end to war even sooner than your congresses. On the day when two army corps may mutually annihilate each other in a second, probably all civilized nations will recoil with horror and disband their troops."
When JFK was asked why America was going to the Moon, he answered "Why not?"
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
Mind you, Kennedy also had more practical goals. For one, he wanted to show up the Soviets. For another, America was in a recession at the time, and the space race was a way to create jobs not just for well-educated scientists, but in manufacturing and industry.
Wernher von Braun, the scientist who worked on JFK's Apollo project had in the past made the V2 missile for the Nazis. Actually, his lifelong ambition was always to go to the moon, but he found himself unable to convince anyone at the time that there was any compelling reason. So, to continue his work, he instead built rockets for the only people who were interested in them at the time, the Nazis, for purely military reasons. When the moon became important and his former For Science reasons actually became practical, people finally did come to him, and made a lot of jokes about his previous employer:
"The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet."
One of the most horrifying examples in real life of this is Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi scientist who performed "experiments" at Auschwitz, and had a particular fascination with twins and other "abnormals", who he researched in order to find scientific proof of racial inferiority. He was known to perform amputations and major surgeries without anesthesia, and once sewed two twins together to make artificial Siamese twins. Said one prisoner of him, "Nobody ever questioned him — why did this one die? Why did that one perish? The patients did not count. He professed to do what he did in the name of science, but it was a madness on his part. He didn't run a laboratory, he ran a butcher's shop."
Mengele was, by comparison, a lightweight famous not so much for being the worst of the worst, but for evading capture. Some of the Nazi medical corps make Mengele look like Doctor Snuggles by comparison. Like one doctor with what can only be called an unhealthy fixation on the female reproductive tract. Let's just say it often involved injections of caustic substances like gasoline and leave it at that.
Then again, he and his Jewish assistance made major breakthroughs in the research of a disease named noma. This disease, which involves hideous facial gangrene, does not exist in the developed Western world anymore, but it still does in Africa. Ah well, at least someone helped them out with it—as we all know, beggars can’t be choosers. Many of those Jewish assistants, who were specifically pulled out of the camps' populations for their skills, had two options, work for the doctor or take their chances in the concentration and death camps.
Japan's Unit 731 did even worse experiments on the Chinese. They injected prisoners with inoculations of disease and cut them open (while still alive, and without anesthesia) to study their effects, froze them in low-temperature chambers to see how long they would live, injected air into their arteries to determine the time until the onset of embolism, and injected horse urine into their kidneys, just for starters.
The "science" performed by Unit 731 and Mengele et al was likely motivated in a large part by sheer sadism - Aushwitz survivor Alex Dekel said that: "I have never accepted the fact that Mengele himself believed he was doing serious work – not from the slipshod way he went about it. He was only exercising his power. Mengele ran a butcher shop – major surgeries were performed without anaesthesia. Once, I witnessed a stomach operation – Mengele was removing pieces from the stomach, but without any anaesthetic. Another time, it was a heart that was removed, again without anaesthesia. It was horrifying. Mengele was a doctor who became mad because of the power he was given. Nobody ever questioned him – why did this one die? Why did that one perish? The patients did not count. He professed to do what he did in the name of science, but it was a madness on his part."
For the time being, the experiments using the Large Hadron Collider will mostly be for satisfying scientific curiosity (namely searching for the hypothetical Higgs boson). Whether any practical use can be made from such a discovery (which would provide insight to the quantum nature of mass) remains to be seen. There are also those who claim that the experiments are unethical, due to the potential for creating miniature black holes which could destroy the planet, but these fears are mostly groundless(REALLY!).
It's not as impractical as one would think. The boson is what scientists think creates mass. If we find that it exists, we can start tinkering with it. For what applications this can be used for, see every technology from interstellar space travel to telekinesis to nearly Bottomless Magazines in Mass Effect.
Even if we do find it, we have to figure out how to use something that could only be detected in a humongous facility at relativistic velocities. Specifically, how would you find a use for it when it can only (apparently) be observed and generated in an isolated form in high energy physics experiments? Until it can be generated by something smaller, or the existing tech is drastically scaled down, there's little application for it beyond scientific curiosity.
A quote from The West Wing: "When the electron was discovered in 1897, it was useless; and now we have a whole world run on electronics."
Bill Bailey has suggested that once the LHC stops yielding significant data, the CERN scientists might send a malteser around it, just to see what will happen.
A lot of theoretical research tend to suit this trope, at least at first. When one asks why special relativity was useful in 1905, or Democritus' concept of atomism in classical Greece, one finds that the greatest practical results came decades or even centuries later. A particular meta-example would be Bacon, whose most noted practical accomplishment was how to create practical accomplishments in research. Or immortality.
There is no such thing as good knowledge or bad knowledge. There is only knowledge. Morality is when you decidenotto use it. — anonymous
All brain surgery that is any way feasible to do so is done while the patient is conscious. That's the best way to make sure that nothing goes wrong — no-one knows it better than the patient himself. Once you get past the fleshy bits on the outside of the skull, there isn'taren't any nerve receptors and therefore nothing that registers pain within the brain.
There was a concern that the first A-Bomb tests would trigger nitrogen fusion and ignite the entire atmosphere, wiping out all life on Earth. Teller first brought it up. "In Serber's account, Oppenheimer mentioned it to Arthur Compton, who 'didn't have enough sense to shut up about it. It somehow got into a document that went to Washington' which led to the question being 'never laid to rest'." By the time the test was done, this outcome seemed vanishingly unlikely (nitrogen does not fuse easily). Further discussion here.
Besides, the big worry was that if the Allies didn't get nuclear fission working soon then the Germans would beat them to it. Given the chance between our blowing up the world and the enemy blowing up the world, it was obvious what to do. That is, on reflection, not a happy sentence.
One scientist at the Trinity test site bet a large sum of money that it would blow up the entire state of New Mexico. For Science indeed.
One of the pioneers of head transplants, Robert J. White, appears to have fit this mold perfectly. Even a completely successful transplant would leave someone as a head grotesquely stitched onto someone else's shoulder, with no motor control, severely limiting its practical use.
Certainly the case when it was pioneered - but nerve grafts are starting to take place with people recovering at least partial motor control of reattached and transplanted limbs.
Lasers. Between the laying of the theoretical groundwork after World War One and the first practical uses in the mid to late sixties, lasers were described as "a brilliant solution awaiting a problem". Everyone agreed that stimulated emission of coherent light was fascinating and clever, but no-one had much of an idea of what to do with it in practical terms.
The Kola Superdeep Borehole, northern Russia. The Soviet government wanted to know what was beneath the surface of the Earth. So they dug a really big hole...
Carl Sagan harshly criticized Edward Teller for his relentless push to develop the hydrogen bomb. While nuclear fission bombs, such as the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are certainly nothing to be taken lightly, the whole "destroy all life on Earth N times over" model of the modern nuclear arsenal would not have been possible without the hydrogen bomb.
Though it may seem like this trope due to the low-brow nature of much sexual humor, it actually was educational in many regards for anatomical studies, particularly in regards to sexual anatomy. Finding out how some anatomical feature works helps solve problems of said features not working.
The International Space Station, mostly "for world co-operation!" with a bit of "for science!" on the side.
All "for world co-operation!". It's far easier and cheaper to use unmanned space craft for science in space, except for studying the effects of the space environment on humans.
Parodied by many message board users, who will request various pictures of scantily-clad women "for homework" or "for research".
"If enough people try these dangerous experiments, the government will try to outlaw any sort of legitimate private experiments with radioactivity or possession of any radioactive minerals or materials (thus spoiling all of our fun)."
Frankly, most private experiments with radioactivity probably count under this trope by definition, as even the mildest radioactive materials of the sort you can find in a high school science lab are an extreme health hazard if improperly stored or handled. Experimenting on such materials with whatever equipment you can find on eBay or improvise from the junk in your garage is likely to Go Horribly Wrong.
The Tuskegee Study, a study in the early to mid 1900s was one of the longest studies in history, and one of the direct causes for African Americans distrusting doctors. The scientists hired a black doctor to convince poor, mostly illiterate, men with syphilis to participate in the study, promising the volunteers free medical care, a free ride into town (most didn't own cars, so they had to walk to get groceries and stuff), and a free burial when they eventually died (at an old age. The study didn't set out to kill them.). Instead, the men were lied to consistently, for example, told that a spinal tap was a special treatment for the disease, and that the disease was "bad blood" in their system. The doctors withheld treatment, even once penicillin was discovered as a viable treatment. The worst part? Hundreds suffered while the whole point of the study was to prove that black men suffered from syphilis the same way as white men—it set to prove that everyone was equal.
See also Dr Lee Stanley of San Quentin Prison, who did wacky things like implanting animal testicles into human inmates, or taking testicles from corpses and trying to implant them in living humans, or just regular forced castrations..what a guy.
The Japanese government justifies (or at least attempts to justify) its current ongoing whaling program by saying it's "FOR SCIENCE!" They do publish, for what it's worth. A recent investigation pitted several actual scientists to pore through published whaling "research" papers for a single year. Out of the thousands of papers they were forced to endure, they found less than a dozen that had any scientific relevance whatsoever.
This is also true for the many other countries that host the Network: the Discovery Channel and related enterprises (such as Discovery Civilization) have dedicated themselves entirely to this. Considering its sheer popularity in some countries, one would think that the whole of said country was like this.
While not as ethically bankrupt as some of the others, it takes a strange dedication to discovery in order to create the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, chiefly by having yourself stung by as many insects as possible so that you may rank them by the agony experienced
Places that conduct bar/pub trivia will usually, upon announcing the topic of the question is science, be met with a loud outburst of "SCIENCE!" from competing teams.
The Three Christs of Ypsilanti: a psychologist took three schizophrenia patients who believed that they were Jesus and put them in a room together. No reports as to whether they sent in someone dressed as a Roman soldier with some wood, hammer, and nails...
As pesticides and herbicides began to grow in popularity, many industrial chemists began inventing chemicals and blindly testing them simply to find a better one. These tests were limited in scope and simplistic as well; if a chemical killed an insect, it was an insecticide, a plant, an herbicide, a man, a chemical weapon. Sometimes these overlapped; the most (in-)famous cases are some of the insecticides developed in interwar Germany, which turned out to be Zyklon-B, Tabun, and Sarin.note The earliest nerve agents. Note that most insecticides, even today, are simply mild nerve agents; the cockroach spray you use to clean out your kitchen cabinets works on the same principles as biological-warfare-grade nerve gas. The refinement and intensification necessary to weaponize them and make them lethal to humans were carried out at least partially for science!
A positive example; Howard Florey who had an important role in the making of penicillin had this to say about his motives: "People sometimes think that I and the others worked on penicillin because we were interested in suffering humanity. I don't think it ever crossed our minds about suffering humanity. This was an interesting scientific exercise, and because it was of some use in medicine is very gratifying, but this was not the reason that we started working on it."
Much like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, the Monster Study (and the Divided Classroom, to some), the Monkey Drug Trials, the Little Albert experiment, and Harry Harlow's monkey studies have all produced fascinating results - but are all so ethically questionable that some people are uncomfortable using the information the produced.
Even more infamously, the Stanford Prison Experiment was not completed (six days into the projected two weeks), and was not likely to give valid data (Zimbardo and the guards interfered within days), and was traumatic for everybody involved - but wow, makes for interesting class readings!
Milgram's shock tests are also questionable ethically, although they have since been repeated.
Members of New Jersey Governer's Chris Christie's staff used this as part of their argument for conducting a traffic study that would require closing down two of three toll booth lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge. Turns out that this was just a cover for their take on retribution for the Fort Lee Mayor for not endorsing Christie in a previous election.