> What possible benefit is there to typing split(" ") vs. split(/\s/)?
> One saved character (but two shift key presses!)?

they are not the same: 

irb(main):001:0> s = "this is\tfun \tno?"
=> ["this", "is", "fun", "no?"]
irb(main):003:0> s.split(" ")
=> "this is\tfun \tno?"
irb(main):002:0> s.split(/\s/)
=> ["this", "is", "fun", "", "no?"]

> It is counter-intuitive to people without prior Perl experience. Now
> that Ruby is taking off in its own right, does Ruby need to continue
> supporting gross global $ vars, this, and other ugly Perl-isms just to
> try and make Ruby feel more like Perl?

Well, things are the way they are.  Ruby has over 10 yrs behind it. 
I, for one, would like to see less sweeping changes that causes
breakage, not more.

Cameron