"I've come across more and more people who've actually tried reading science fiction and can't make it make sense."
Laputa's means of propulsion and altitude control is detailed below.
Here is an early illustration:
(The island of Laputa)
The island's altitude and progress is determined by magnetic levitation:
At the Centre of the Island there is a Chasm about fifty Yards in Diameter... The greatest Curiosity, upon which the fate of the Island depends, is a Loadstone of a prodigious size, in shape resembling a Weaver's Shuttle. It is in length six Yards, and in the thickest part at least three Yards over. This Magnet is sustained by a very strong Axle of Adamant passing through its middle, upon which it plays, and is poised os exactly that the weakest Hand can turn it...
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