What are Living Things?
By definition, a living thing is a self-sustainable organic system that is susceptible to evolution. This definition covers a wide range of organisms, from bacteria and fungi to humans, flowers and other plants and animals.
They all share some common characteristics. For example, every living thing is made up of cells (or a single cell, in the case of unicellular species).
In addition, every living thing undergoes certain metabolic reactions through which it gains energy and maintains its homeostasis, or the state of inner balance.
An example is the process of cellular respiration, which is shared by all living things, no matter if they’re unicellular or not.
Finally, another important aspect of every living thing is that it requires energy both in order to stay alive as well as to perform any work or movement.
This energy is gained through the mentioned metabolic processes, either by converting inorganic substances into energy (in the case of autotrophs) or by converting organic substances, most commonly food, into energy (in the case of heterotrophs).
An interesting species in this context are viruses, since it’s widely debated whether they should be considered as living things or not.
However, since there’s no scientific consensus on the matter yet, they won’t be further discussed nor taken into account through the remainder of this article.
What are Nonliving Things?
The definition of nonliving things is pretty straightforward and is partially included in the title – they’re everything that cannot fall under the criteria of the living things.
The term most of us are familiar with is “inanimate objects”. As opposed to living things, whose fundamental unit is a cell, here the fundamental unit are particles – atoms and molecules. Inanimate objects possess no consciousness whatsoever, and are unable to move (or, for that matter, do anything at all), deliberately.
In some cases, it is possible to move or transport them, and that process also requires energy, in a similar fashion to how work required energy from living things. This energy can either be transferred directly, through direct contact, or, in the specific case of machines, this energy can be gained from certain processes performed on fuel.
In this sense, fuel would be the same for machines as inanimate objects as food was for living things.
Similarities between Living and Non-living Things
By definition, nonliving things are everything living things are not, so there aren’t many similarities, and they’re pretty fundamental, or even trivial.
In both cases, since those things (living or nonliving) exist, they occupy some space and have a certain mass. Both living and nonliving things can be moved around or transported, by exerting some force on them, which requires energy, which in turn requires either food that is processed through some metabolic mechanisms, or fuel in the case of machines, which is further processed in order to obtain energy. Briefly covered, the similarities would be the following.
Similarities between Living and Non-living Things in terms of :
Both living and nonliving things have mass
They both occupy certain volume in space
They both consist of fundamental units (cells for living, particles for nonliving things)
They can both be moved at the cost of energy
Summary points on similarities between Living and Non-living Things
The definition of life specifies a wide range of species that fall into the category of “living things”. They are made up of cells and require food to be metabolically processed in order to gain energy that sustains them and, in some cases, allows them to move and do work. Nonliving things are made up of particles, aren’t conscious, and cannot move unless force is exerted on them. This force also requires energy and can be done by either a living thing or through an automated process that requires fuel.
Author: Dr. Howard Fields
Dr. Howard is a Clinical Psychologist and a Professional Writer and he has been partnering with patients to create positive change in their lives for over fifteen years. Dr. Howard integrates complementary methodologies and techniques to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each patient.