last night, Guido van Rossum, the creator of the <a href="http://www.python.org/">python</a> scripting language, came to talk to the <a href="http://ny.pm.org/">new york perlmongers</a>.
since python and perl are so similar, there's a lot of bad blood between the fans of the two languages (programmers are weird. the more miniscule a detail is, the more rabidly they'll argue over it). surprisingly though, everyone was quite civil.
Guido gave a quick introduction to python and then just answered questions for a couple hours. he spent a lot of time explaining the reasoning behind python's approach to programming. he was very diplomatic about it, acknowledging a few areas where perl was more developed than python and very delicately pointing out areas where python had advantages.
since python and perl have so many things in common, it's hard to pin down many areas where one or the other has a clear advantage. pretty much anything that you can do quickly and easily in perl, you can do quickly and easily in python, and vice versa so it comes down to which one you are more familiar with. one thing that i learned python is good for is as a wrapper for C/C++ libraries. perl has facilities for this but they are notoriously ugly and difficult. python apparently does it fairly painlessly.
there was also a lot of talk about python's internals: its object model, capabilities for introspection/reflection, its security model, and its nice exception architecture (one of the things that i really missed in perl when i moved from java). since <a href="http://www.yetanother.org/dan/">dan</a> was there again, there was also a lot of talk about parrot, the bytecode language and vm that's intended to bridge perl and python (and maybe java too).
all in all, i doubt i'll give up perl anytime soon but Guido has piqued my curiousity enough that i'd like to at least become mildly competent with python. if nothing else, it looks like an excellent teaching language.