Research Projects I Wish Someone Would Undertake


These projects seem to me to be interesting and feasible, but I cannot undertake them.

If you pursue one of them, or if you know that one of them has already been done, please let me know. 


Randolph Nesse, M.D.†††

Human Adaptation to Smoky Environments

Our ancestors have lived with smoke for some tenís of thousands of years.The obvious dangers of smoke, not only cancer but increased rates of infections, should have shaped resistance.The hypothesis to be tested is that humans will clear small particulates from their respiratory tree faster than other primates, and that we will be more resistant to the effects of smoke.


Effects of Antidepressants on Major Life Choices

Do antidepressants make it more likely that people in difficult life circumstances will just accept the situation, or do they make it more likely that people will get the confidence and initiative to make major changes or leave?Given the widespread use of antidepressants for people in life crises, we really need to know.One design would be to randomly assign abused depressed spouses to therapy plus antidepressant or therapy plus placebo.I predict that those on medication will be more likely to make major life changes.But I may be wrong.† 

Who Benefits from Rhinorrhea?

Does a runny nose benefit the virus, by spreading it, or the sick person by clearing out the virus, or both?To test the hypothesis that it benefits the sick person, one could find 100 people coming down with a cold and assign half of them a nasal spray that dried up nasal secretions, and the other half a saline spray.I predict that those who use the medication will stay sick a bit longer.

Burn resistance

Has human association with fire changed us?Compared to other primates, does our skin have more temperature receptors? Does our skin heal more quickly after a burn?

Sexual selection and deleterious recessives

It is hard to see how natural selection can eliminate deleterious recessives as fast as they accumulate, even with the advantages that come with sex.If the losers of sexual competitions have more deleterious genes, that would speed the process.If this factor is important, then there should be fewer deleterious genes in species that have 1) wide variation in individual reproductive success, 2) a wide variation of mates to choose from, and 3) mating displays that are likely to reveal any deficiency.It should be possible to look at closely related species that differ in the strength of sexual selection, and then to look at the number of lethal recessive equivalents in each.