MacAdam ellipses were found as a fit to experimental results on color matching by human observers. Multiple color spaces attempting to make euclidean distances more perceptually uniform, like CIELAB and CIELUV, are based on these experimental data too.

But what about theoretical side of the color distance question? Is current color vision theory able to predict sizes and orientations of these ellipses? If not, what are the obstacles?

  • $\begingroup$ So, are you basically asking if there is a biological explanation (supported by a mathematical model) for the size and position of these ellipses and reason for their occurrence? There is a formula for the ellipses. See here (section 3.4). $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Jul 16 '19 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG yes, I'm interested in a biological explanation and calculation — something like, starting from biochemistry (for phototransduction), through neuroscience (or whatever branch of biology studies this), to a prediction of whether a pair of spectral distributions of irradiance of the cones would be distinguishable. The formulas given in your link are from the empirically-based color spaces like CIELAB, which is not what I'm looking for. $\endgroup$ – Ruslan Jul 16 '19 at 10:19

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