Gulliver meets the absentminded intellectuals of the floating island of Laputa on his third journey. Laputans are parodies of theoreticians, who have scant regard for any practical results of their own research. They are so inwardly absorbed in their own thoughts that they must be shaken out of their meditations by special servants called flappers, who shake rattles in their ears.
Though the Laputans do not mistreat him, they do dismiss him as intellectually deficient, rendering Gulliver’s interactions with them markedly unpleasant. They do not care about down-to-earth things like the dilapidation of their own houses, but worry intensely about abstract matters like the trajectories of comets and the course of the sun. They are dependent in their own material needs on the land below them, called Lagado, above which they hover by virtue of a magnetic field, and from which they periodically raise up food supplies. In the larger context of Gulliver’s journeys, the Laputans are a parody of the excesses of theoretical pursuits and the uselessness of purely abstract knowledge.