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The Quick 10: 10 People Killed in Duels

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I hope you guys like today's Quick 10, because if you don't, I may be forced to challenge you to a duel. Although the only type of duel I could hope to best anyone at would be a Guitar Hero or Rock Band duel. Still. Consider yourself warned.

10 People Killed in Duels

1. Alexander Hamilton. Let's start with the obvious, right? Aaron Burr thought Alexander Hamilton was talking smack about him and demanded an apology. Hamilton refused. A duel was scheduled for dawn on July 11, 1804. Hamilton missed Burr (perhaps on purpose), but Burr got Hamilton right in the gut. He died on July 12.

2. Charles Dickinson. This guy should have known better than to challenge Old Hickory himself, Andrew Jackson. As an expert marksman (he had killed 26 in duels before he met his match), Jackson's political opponents had Dickinson insult Jackson's wife so the notoriously hot-headed Jackson would challenge him to a duel, and, presumably, lose. Not so much. When the duel happened, Jackson calmly waited for Dickinson to shoot him. He took a bullet in the ribs and then returned fire. Dickinson died a couple of hours later.

3. Stephen Decatur. Commodore James Barron challenged Commodore Stephen Decatur to a duel after Decatur insulted Barron's tactics in a naval battle 13 years earlier. The two hashed it out at Bladensburg Duelling Field in Bladensburg, Md., on March 22, 1820. Decatur was shot in the abdomen and was taken home to die, supposedly saying, "I did not know that any man could suffer such pain!" Oddly, while he was upstairs dying, there was a party raging downstairs. James Monroe's daughter had just gotten married and a celebration was thrown in honor of the first White House wedding.

4. Mikhail Lermontov. The Russian poet was known for his quick wit, including the ability to assign a perfectly-suited (although maybe unflattering) nickname and a talent for scathing caricatures. A fellow army officer took offense to one of Lermontov's jokes and challenged him to a duel. Lermontov chose the edge of a precipice at Mashuk mountain overlooking the city of Pyatigorsk so that if one of them was wounded, they would topple down the cliff. Lermontov was killed in the first shot.

5. Robert Lyon. Lyon's 1833 death is the last-known dueling death in Canada. He and his friend and fellow law student, John Wilson, were in love with the same woman. You can see where this is going. Encouraged by a fascinated town (and by one military enthusiast in particular), the dueling challenge got out of control rather quickly. It might have died out if so many people hadn't gotten involved. Alas, it did not die out "“ instead, Lyon died from Wilson's second shot (the first shots fired by both were harmless).

6. Ferdinand Lassalle. Political activist Lassalle found himself in love with Hélène von Dönniges and decided to marry her during the summer of 1864. However, she was the daughter of a Bavarian diplomat who was horrified at the very idea and quickly promised her hand to another man, Count von Racowitza. Lassalle challenged the Count and Hélène's father to a duel; the Count accepted. And won. Lassalle died on August 31, 1864, three days after the duel took place.
7. Lucius M. Walker. Walker was the nephew of 11th U.S. President James K. Polk (whom I can tell you all about, thanks to They Might Be Giants). In August of 1863, Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke basically called Walker a coward and said he had endangered his men by not joining them in battle. Walker challenged Marmaduke to a duel. Major General Sterling Price ordered both officers to stay in their quarters so the duel could not go on, but the orders were never delivered to Walker. So, they faced off of September 6 and Walker was mortally wounded on his right side. Marmaduke offered Walker his assistance and Walker forgave him for everything. Walker died the next day.

8. Jonathan Cilley This member of the U.S. House of Representatives was killed after serving just one term in Congress. In 1838, he was challenged to a duel by fellow Congressman William J. Graves. Cilley said Graves of writing a newspaper article that accused another Congressman of immorality (can you imagine all of the duels that would be going on today if this was still common practice?!). Cilley was close friends with both future President Franklin Pierce and writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who published two posthumous biographies of his dear friend.

9. Peter Tordenskjold. Tordenskjold was a Vice-Admiral in the Royal Dano-Norwegian Navy and is considered one of the greatest naval heroes in Denmark and Norway. He survived the Great Northern War with flying colors and high honors only to be killed in a duel soon after. He fought Jakob Axel Stael von Holstein using nothing but a decorative rapier, while von Holstein was armed with an extremely superior sword. Tordenskjold had been told the duel was going to be with firearms, but von Holstein tricked him "“ at the last minute, he told the firearms man to leave because the duel had been canceled. Thus, Tordenskjold, believing a firearm would be supplied, had not brought a proper sword. This didn't matter "“ they dueled anyway and Tordenskjold had two arteries severed when he was run through by von Holstein. He died almost immediately. All of this because he called von Holstein a cheater at gambling.

10. Alexander Pushkin. One of Russia's greatest authors died in a duel over his wife's alleged dalliances. In 1837, he challenged Georges d'Anthès, the man who insulted his wife, to a duel. Pushkin was wounded badly and died two days later. On his deathbed, he sent a message to d'Anthès forgiving him for everything; d'Anthès, who pretty much had a little scratch on his arm, laughed and said, "Well, tell him I forgive him too."

[Image courtesy of The Alexander Hamilton Institute.]

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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