I really hate physicists' obsession with drawing power laws, and the fact that science journalists always eat it up as important science. This article embodies all these annoying things. So I'd like to agree with you. BUT I have to note that Clauset was the co-author of a conceptually very sound, important paper about fitting distributions to empirical data: Clauset-Shalizi-Newman - Power-law distributions in empirical data. I don't think he would make the very mistake he identifies in this paper.
Well reasoned argument, but you leave out one important possibility. I don't think that an alien civilization will colonize Earth because Earth is some special, valuable, interesting place. They will colonize Earth because they will colonize all of their light cone. Let me try to explain how and why would they do that.
The why question: The relevant buzzwords here are computronium and negentropy. Basically, for any sufficiently advanced civilization, there is only one valuable resource: computation. (If this sounds implausible, just try to imagine how much of our existence will be spent in virtual spaces in 50 years from now, and then extrapolate another 100 million years from there. Upload is another relevant buzzword.) So on a conceptual level, and strictly from an outside view, you can imagine an advanced civilization as a process to build the largest possible computer. And that requires a huge amount of space.
The how question: Neumann probes are already a well-known possible method for totally terraforming a region of space, but I think much more effective methods are possible, too. We don't know any laws of physics that would be violated by an expansion speed converging to the speed of light. I imagine this as a turbo-charged version of the terraforming method described in "His Master's Voice", with teleportation instead of the gentle catalysis.
In fact, I believe in a 0-1 law for the expansion speed of civilizations. I argue that there is only a very short timeframe in the life of a civilization when their sphere of influence is already expanding, but not yet expanding with the speed of light. Note that this idea is an (admittedly somewhat contrived) solution to the Fermi Paradox: If they are before this short phase transition, they can’t be observed with current human technology. After the phase transition they can’t be observed at all.
Supersonic ballistic whoosh.
Nice to hear that number. I was a bit worried that economic growth will suffer while things inevitably converge to their copyright-free state. But no, even the perfect demolition of a 4% GDP industry would not ruin world economy.
I have seen hundreds of posts on Slashdot about incompetence and abuse of power by Wikipedia editors. NONE of these posts contained reference to the events described. Citation needed, indeed.
It is quite possible that the distribution is lognormal. I don't have a citation right now, but I know that some of these guessing distributions are indeed lognormal. That would mean that the geometric average is the correct formula, and not the mean or median.
Goldwasser,Kalai,Rothblum - Delegating Computation: Interactive Proofs for Muggles
This is a theoretic, not immediately applicable result, but it shows that it is possible to set up such a distributed system so that it is immune to poisoning attempts.
You are the clueless one here. See some of the other replies to your post, most of them do have a clue. It is a shame that currently you are modded to the top, and they were not even moderated. New Scientist is prone to sensationalism, and this field is often misrepresented in the press. So I was actually quite surprised to see an informative and accurate piece such as this.