Edit 10 May 2010: After installing OS X 10.6, Matlab 2010a works out of the box with no X11 hassle.

Matlab requires X11 to be installed in Mac OS X 10.5.8 to run properly (or at least in a GUI). Although Apple ships their operating system with X11, there seems to be some problems related to the version of X11 they are using. Specifically, when trying to open Matlab, the splash screen appears for a few seconds before the application simply exits.

A solution that has worked for me is to use the latest, community-driven, and open-source version of X11 (XQuartz X11 2.5.0) developed by the XQuartz project. After installation, Matlab should work properly again. Note that whenever you perform a system update, you will have to reinstall the XQuartz release. This is due to the system update overwriting your X11 application.

The above solution works for my setup:

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