Gulliver visits the Grand Academy to observe the many experiments that are being tried out. The intent of these projects is to improve some process, product, or human behavior for the good of humanity. Gulliver studies several projects in progress — for example, trying to extract sunshine from cucumbers, trying to reduce human excrement to its original food, and making gunpowder from ice, among others. In another room, there are language projects, one of which is an endeavor to abolish words altogether. Gulliver feels that none of the projects are yet perfect.
In this chapter, Swift expresses a concern about the nature (and worth) of scientific study of undeserving things. Furthermore, each of the absurd projects that Gulliver reports in this chapter reverses a natural process. All the projects fail, and Swift exposes them as pointless and useless.
The Royal Society is also implicated by Gulliver's reference to the language project. The proposal to substitute objects for words is very much like an actual proposal made by Sprat, the historian of the Society. Sprat wanted the Society's reports to be written in a mathematically plain style — a style that would contain pictures of all the things mentioned; the style, therefore, would have almost as many pictures in it as words.
human ordure human excrement.
calcine ice to burn ice into powder.
tincture a dye.
annual and diurnal motions active throughout the year and during the daytime; here, meaning the project required a time adjustment both yearly and during the day (because the project involved a sundial).