Being good at programming is not simply knowing a lot about a programming language, or how to write very fast programs. It is about:
In science, the last point is important, because reproducible research and open science is becoming the norm in certain fields of research, which means that others have to be able to read your code, and understand what you are doing, and be able to run it themselves. For this course, we are not just interested in whether your solutions are correct, but also whether it is possible to understand how you are solving the problem. You should always write code assuming that someone else may read it.
This course focuses on aspects of programming that would be useful to you in scientific research, but Python is a very popular language, and what you will learn will also be applicable if you decide to pursue a different career!
Python is an interpreted language, which means that the code is not compiled in advance, which makes it slower than languages like C/C++ or Fortran. Why therefore would we want to learn/use it?
Even though the Python logo has snakes in it, Python originally comes from the Monty Python comedy group ["Monty Python's Flying Circus", "Monty Python's Life of Brian", "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"]
.. a lot of Python documentation includes jokes related to Monty Python.
The latest version of Python is currently 3.6, but many people are still using version 2.7 (the latest 2.x release) because Python 3.x includes some big changes which means that not all packages are ready.
It ususally doesn't matter terribly much. I will point out when, in this course, Python 3.x differs from Python 2.x syntax.