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Congratulations for preferring a free open source software. That's the way to go!

I can't answer all your questions, but I can say this:

  • Yes, Python is used by physicists. More below.

  • Sage's functionality covers a good part of Mathematica's functionality, and it has functionality that Mathematica does not have.

  • I don't know of any "online guide/manual or book which teaches Sage with an emphasis for physics" but an equivalent to A Physicist's guide to Mathematica would certainly be a useful resource.

An example of the use of Python in Physics is at the French CEA.

CEA is the main Atomic energy research body in France, see the CEA website and the CEA wikipedia entry.

Olivier Tache, a research engineer there, in the LIONS lab of the SIS2M unit, wrote about Using Python for science (pdf).

He was in charge of renovating the command-control system for USAXS (Ultra-small-angle X-ray scattering) lab experiments, and based on a study of different command-control systems, he engineered the move to Python and Tango for command-control.

The LIONS lab developed PySAXS, an Open Source Python package and GUI for SAXS data treatment, entirely based on Numpy and SciPy.

Further reading:

Note: I am not connected to CEA. Olivier Tache was our guest at the December 2012 meeting of the Paris area Sage and Scientific Python user group. He talked about the move to Python of the LIONS lab.