How Does An Execution Plan Suddenly Change When The Statistics (And Everything Else) Remains The Same ? (In Limbo)

Richard Foote's Oracle Blog

I’ve slipped this post in as there have been a number of discussions recently on how execution plans have changed while nothing else appears to have changed in the database. How can an execution plan suddenly change when no one has made any changes to the database ?
 
By no changes, it means that there have been no alterations to any segments, no new indexes have been added, no changes associated  bind peeking (indeed, there may not even be any bind variables), no parameters changes, no new patches or upgrades, no new outlines or profiles, no new system stats and perhaps most prevalent of all, no changes to any CBO statistics.
 
The DBA hasn’t touched a thing and yet suddenly, for no apparent reason, execution plans suddenly change and (say) an inappropriate index is suddenly used and causes performance degradation.
 
How can this be possible ?
 
There are…

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