Science and Space (NEW)

Living or non-living? A look into science and nature

It’s the same thing, day in and day out. Always the same routine. Always the same people. Always the same food. I have hoped, more times than I can count, and looked forward to how I would not wake up the next morning so I could answer a simple thought.

It is a thought that had on occasion come to my mind was, “what defines living?” I’m sure, you have as well. Doesn’t everybody, ever wonder what it means to be alive? This article was specifically written to answer that.

This is meant to enlighten you, to educate you that it may give you strength and a unique perspective. What makes something and/or someone a living being or a living creature. 

I want to be the one to answer this question that a lot of people have wondered about such as, are tornados alive? What about fire? Or a starfish, and so on – if at any point, you get confused or have a lot of questions. Please, contact me. Type your questions in the comment section. I will respond. If you don’t have any, I would like to start by defining what living means.

What Defines Living

What defines living is how one is bound by time, meaning there is a start, and there is an end. Often, having a considerable amount of time for leisure. You, me, animals, sealife, fowl, insects, and so on are prime examples of what defines being alive. Each of these entities can be considered by religion as having a “soul” to live within a “vessel” and enjoy all that life can give. Let me explain.

Growing with time, respire, react to the external environment through their senses, reproduce their species, move from one place to another, they have a particular life span, are made of microscopic structures called cells; are unique – some do not possess the characteristics of a living thing e,g plants take in water and nutrients to survive- air; but when it comes to air, plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen. 

Plants do not move from one place to another, unlike humans and animals that can walk and run, but plants move their stems to face the sun except in the direction of sunlight. Just like animals live in water, air, or land. To be classified as a living organism, an object must be able to do all of the following activities: grow and change, organization (composed of cells), metabolism, homeostasis, response to stimuli, reproduction, and adaptation. Be able to use energy by eating and/or, responding to its environment.

For an organism to be classified as once living, an object must have been part of a living organism or is now dead. When a flower is plucked from a plant it is hard to distinguish between when it is considered alive and when it is now considered once living. 

  • Things that need food, air, and water for their survival are called living things.
  • Living things need food to grow, they move, respire, reproduce, excrete wastes from the body, respond to stimuli in the environment, and have a definite life span.

Water, sun, moon, and stars do not show any of the above characteristics of living things.

So, they are non-living things.

If you’re unsure whether something is living or nonliving, there are some questions to ask yourself to help you figure it out. Some things you could ask yourself would be:

  • Can it die?
  • Does it need nutrients to live?
  • Can it reproduce or make babies?
  • Does it change, develop and grow?
  • Does it come from a living thing? (For example, a baby

A more technical consideration would be that living things: have key characteristics or functions: order, sensitivity or response to the environment, reproduction, adaptation, growth and development, homeostasis, energy processing, and evolution. Have DNA: the main role of DNA is to store information on how other molecules should be arranged. Genetic sequences in DNA are essentially instructions on how amino acids should be arranged in protein

As a living entity, one has the supreme ability to react to stimuli. 

  • Most living things need food, water, light, temperatures within certain limits, and air.
  • Living things have a variety of characteristics that are displayed to different degrees: 
  • they respire, move, respond to stimuli, reproduce and grow, and are dependent on their environment.

To be alive means to have constant long-lasting perpetual movement.

Non-living things can be classified into two categories

  • Natural Non-living Things
  • Man-made Non-living Things

Non-living things refer to those things which are not alive i.e. the characteristic of life is absent in them. Though they do possess a period of activity or being alive or active rather. They do not show any traits of life such as reproduction growth and development respiration metabolism adaptation responsiveness movement etc. 

Now, that you have a better understanding of living or non-living life, you can carry this understanding as we deep dive into this informative piece.

Is a tornado living or non-living

Even though a tornado moves, it is non-living. Tornadoes are rapidly rotating columns of air that are formed during a thunderstorm and extend downwards towards the ground in a spiral of decreasing diameter. The tornado funnel is comprised of water droplets, dust, dirt, and debris…which increases in suspension when the tornado touches the ground. 

Neither air, water, nor debris is living things. The funnel cloud is not a living thing. Thunderstorms are not living things, although, like most storms, there is a lot of strong movement and activity. The tornado funnel can also lift living animals, but they are victims of the tornado. Tornadoes are outgrowths of powerful thunderstorms that appear as rotating, funnel-shaped clouds. 

It is not biological. It isn’t made of cells, to begin with, which means it is “non-living”, but it also doesn’t fulfil essentially any other criteria for being “life”, The motion of a tornado could have come from a myriad of phenomena. You and I see water flowing down waterfalls naturally, we see landslides, rivers, avalanches, tsunamis, and earthquakes – not one of these is a biological force – it is simply inhomogeneous. Drive mostly by a built-up of unseen physics-based energies.

Movement doesn’t imply living or life. Vice versa, it’s not true either

Are clouds living things since they can move

Movement does not always imply life. There are natural forces at work on our planet that do not depend on life for creation or sustenance. 

Clouds are natural nonliving things. They are found in nature. As I have said previously, “movement doesn’t imply living or life. Vice versa, is not true either.”

Clouds move along with the air that they are a part of; the air moves in response to the sun’s warming of the ground in various ways and patterns. There were moving clouds on Earth before life, and indeed there are moving clouds on Venus and Jupiter, under conditions where life as we know it cannot exist.

Clouds are not just water vapour. The cloudiness is actually very small water droplets and this is the bit we call a cloud. Water vapour is essentially invisible. and the air, even air over the deserts has some water vapour. Clouds and water vapour move along with the air they are in. They are not separate entities they are an integral part of the air. 

If you look at spindly cloud’s edges you can often notice that the mistiness appears and disappears, forming and reforming as the air currents they are in move up and down. In more dense clouds this happens as well but it is not as obvious.

Is lightning a living or nonliving thing

A discharge of electricity lightning may have provided the spark needed for life to begin. Lightning however is a passive element. Electric sparks can generate amino acids and sugars from an atmosphere loaded with water, methane, hydrogen, and ammonia, as was shown in the famous Miller-Urey experiment in 1952. 

The experiment’s findings suggested that lightning might have helped create the key building blocks of life on Earth in its early days. Over millions of years, larger and more complex molecules could form. 

To avoid debates, let us assume that circumstantial evidence or common sense dictates that it feels alive because it’s moving and possibly giving “life” to others. A lightning bolt is merely a tool, unlike conventional tools that handymen use such as drills that need an entity to activate the tool. 

Is water living or nonliving

Water is one of the building blocks of life, but it cannot reproduce. It cannot grow or develop, and it does not die. Water changes its shape and form, such as with steam and ice. Because living things all grow and develop, some can easily mistake these changes in water for living characteristics. 

Water is composed of only two elements: Hydrogen (two atoms) and Oxygen (one atom). Water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, and those are made of atoms that are not alive. Water doesn’t have any cells or will to live; that’s why it always falls off a ledge, and we called that a waterfall. But water is also an environment for organisms to survive. Water helps living things.

Water does not have the characteristics of living things, which are:

  • Something that has cells
  • Something that uses energy
  • Something that develops and grows
  • Something that reacts to its environment
  • Something that adapts to its environment
  • Something that reproduces

Water is part of the Abiotic environment, meaning the environment that is not comprised of living things. These non-living things are water, soil, air, and temperature. Some people add sunlight also. The environment that is formed by living things is called the Biotic environment and is comprised of the flora and the fauna (plants and animals).

Is snow a living thing

Snow is not living. It is just crystals of frozen water. A form of water. Think evaporated water vapour or think popcorn popping. The popping is when the water turns into snow. It’s not going to descend as a frozen shard of water but rather a soft ball of pluff. Snow is more of a mineral than being independent meaning that it falls from the sky. Without assistance from a shovel, snow will be stuck in that position. Only for it to freeze and let itself go.

Is fire a living thing?

People sometimes think fire is living because it consumes and uses energy, requires oxygen, and moves through the environment. Children think that fires are living because they consume wood, move, require air, reproduce (i.e. sparks cause other fires) and give off waste (like smoke). Fire is not alive, though it seems to have a mind of its own! 

As much as I want to say ‘yes’ it is not. Fire is non-living. Remember, life has to be independent. It has to be able to act on its own. Fire is a consequence. A wild reaction sometimes overreacts to stimuli such as dry weather. If a fire was actually a living thing, I think we all would be very afraid. Can you imagine, a gigantic walking flame chasing you down, intelligently

For a ‘thing’ to be alive, it must have basic characteristics of life, being alive:

  • Has cells
  • Uses energy
  • Develops and grows
  • Reacts to its environment
  • Adapts to its environment
  • Can reproduce

Is the moon a living thing?

The moon is not a living thing but is a natural satellite made out of rocks and dust. Okay, without getting too technical into it. When you look at the moon or think of it, does it feel like it’s moving? Is it multiplying? A moon exists for one simple reason, and that’s to tell all living creatures that it’s time to go to rest.

Is an egg a living thing?

Yes. You can even argue all life comes from an egg. An egg is a living entity as it contains the substance of life inside and it, later on, develops to produce a living organism. There is a cycle where an egg develops itself and grows.

It adapts to its environment. 

Is a seed living or non-living?

A seed in it itself is non-living. It cannot even “yield fruit” with soil, or water, however, there are some valid grounds for debate here regarding whether seeds are living or non-living. As it plays a huge role in this circle of life that all living creatures are a part of. As a creature dies, it will eventually turn into dust, and the soil feds itself from it. Seeds are then pollinated and ‘birth’ new plants and/or become feed for hummingbirds, etc. In an odd way, you can see that the now-deceased living creature is “living” in a non-living body.

Is a starfish a living thing?

Yes, definitely. A starfish is definitely a living thing. Starfish are tiny little creatures called echinoderms, a marine animal that has a lot of the characteristics needed to be ‘considered’ a living animal :

  • Growth- They grow from an egg to an adult.
  • Nutrition- They are carnivorous and they eat other animals.
  • Respiration- They obtain energy by metabolizing glucose.
  • Movement -They move using a system that is basically hydraulicly powered.
  • Excretion – They have a system for getting rid of metabolic waste.
  • Reproduction – They can reproduce sexually and can lay eggs.
  • Sensitivity – They detect their environment, react, and adapt to changes in it.
A starfish is a living thing. Photo by Francesco Ungaro via
A starfish is a living thing. Photo by Francesco Ungaro via