Forget nanobots. Who needs 'em? Since apparently we can now directly control live bacteria, and make them do our bidding. I'm in awe.

The feat was accomplished—and extensively documented in the video above—by researchers at the NanoRobotics Laboratory of the École Polytechnique de Montréal. The bacteria in question are known as magnetotactic bacteria, which have internal compasses that respond to the pull of a magnetic field. The research team used just such a magnetic field to bunch the bacteria together en masse and manipulate their movements to accomplish simple tasks.

While assembling a pyramid is a fun exercise, the practical applications down the road may involve nanobots after all. The scientists have already navigated a grouping of bacteria through the blood stream of a rat; in the future, they'll use that same technique to create a bacterial propulsion system for larger nanobots.

Pretty amazing stuff; all the more so that we actually get to see it happen. [IEEE via PopSci]