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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Living Things And Non-Living Things

Comparison of Living and Nonliving Things

The various things that make up our world are broadly categorized into two categories, living and nonliving. In this Buzzle article, let's compare and contrast the differences between these two categories, in detail...

In school we all were taught the difference between living and nonliving things. Whatever could move, talk and display emotions was a living thing and something which was stable, inert, or didn't talk was a nonliving thing, this was the basic difference I was taught by my parents and teachers when I was a kid. It was so easy to differentiate the things as living and nonliving with these criteria of differentiation. But even then I had some confusion in mind; a flowing river, it has to be living because it moves and also makes noise. Plants, they never say anything nor move, they are thus nonliving things. But they are not, and we all know that plants are living creatures and that a river is a nonliving thing. The above is a wrong criteria of differentiation and there is much more to distinguish a living being from a nonliving being.

Do we really have adequate knowledge to be able to distinguish these two categories? Because, I have again got some unanswered questions in my mind. The invisible destructive virus, what is it, a living thing or a nonliving thing? A person in coma due to a severe head injury is referred to as brain 'dead', so how can the person be called 'living'? The comparison between living things and nonliving things is not easy as it seems on a first note. Thus, in my quest to understand the minute differences between these two categories, I have summarized the differences that classify a thing as either living or nonliving...

Difference Between Living and Nonliving Things

The points of comparison between living and nonliving things have been discussed in detail below...

Point of Comparison


Respiration, that is the process of breathing is the key criteria that separates a living being from a nonliving being. The process of respiration is same in almost all living beings, which generally is taking in oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. Humans and most other mammals obtain oxygen through the lungs. Some aquatic animals like fish take in oxygen through their gills. There are some animals that breathe through their skin. But the process of respiration is slightly different in plants; instead of taking in oxygen they take in carbon dioxide, and exhale oxygen. The concluding point is that respiration is a key process of survival, be it any living being.

Life Processes
Almost all the living beings exhibit life processes like metabolism, homeostasis and genetic mutations. There are many complex processes that take place in a living organism's body. On the other hand, nonliving things do not undergo these life processes. Reproduction is also a key point of difference between living and nonliving beings. All the living organisms have the ability to reproduce and give birth to organisms of their kind.

Response to Stimuli
Living things show response to stimuli. Humans, plants, fish and animals, all respond to the changes in the surroundings. Non living beings on the other hand would never show response to the stimuli. This is also a key point that distinguishes between a living and nonliving thing.

Living beings follow a life cycle that progresses as birth, growth and death. Death is imperative for any living being; non living things would never have to face death. They can be destroyed due to natural calamities or some actions, but they never die.

Cells are the basic constituents of all the living organisms. Plants and animals all are made of countless cells. Cells are essential to perform the basic processes in life. There are number of processes that undergo in living organisms. Non living things on the other hand lack the chemical processes and are composed of matter that doesn't undergo any chemical change on its own.


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