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Chapter 1, Problem 1Q


Essential Cell Biology

4th Edition
Keith Roberts + 7 others
ISBN: 9780815344544



Essential Cell Biology

4th Edition
Keith Roberts + 7 others
ISBN: 9780815344544
Summary Introduction

To allocate: Scores for a person, a vacuum cleaner, and a potato with respect to characteristics used to define living things in a popular biology text.

Concept introduction:

All things in the world are classified under two categories: living and non-living things. All the living things are studied in biology. Therefore, in order to identify living things, biology books give several characteristics to identify them with. The living things, “Are highly organized compared to natural inanimate objects, Display homeostasis, maintaining a relatively constant internal environment, Reproduce themselves, Grow and develop from simple beginnings, Take energy and matter from the environment and transform it, Respond to stimuli and Show adaptation to their environment” are some of the characters suggested by a biologist in a book based on which the vacuum cleaner, potato and humans are assessed below.


S. No. Characteristics Vacuum cleaner Potato Human
1. Organization + + +
2. Homeostasis + + +
3. Reproduction - + +
4. Development - + +
5. Energy + + +
6. Responsiveness + - +
7. Adaptation - + +

 + indicates fits the life score – indicates does not fit the life score.

The process of trying to define things as living or non-living is an obscure business based on this scoring exercise. Vacuum cleaners are non-living machines used to get rid of dust. They use the matter and energy from the external environment and transform the energy for their working. Vacuum cleaners and old animals are the same in the sense that they cannot reproduce or grow or develop. Potatoes are living things, but they are not responsive to any sort of stimuli. Human beings are living things and fit all the characteristics of living things. Also, it is a known fact that all the living things are made up of the same chemistry that includes DNA, RNA made of atoms, and molecules that are non-living things.

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