Let’s repeat an ancient mistake:

public final class Date {
    private final long timestamp;

    public Date() {
        timestamp = System.currentTimeMillis();

    public long getTimestamp() {
        return timestamp;

Our Date abstraction is supposed to mimic the infamous java.util.Date class. Unless we’ve cracked the time travel problem or our clock is way off, the getTimestamp() method should never return 0, right?

“First Step”

Let’s declare an instance of this Date class like a normal human being:

Date now = new Date();

In my machine, in this very moment of writing, this prints:


Sounds plausible!

“Afraid of Time”

This time around, the sun.misc.Unsafe holds the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything:

private static Field getUnsafe() throws NoSuchFieldException {
    Field field = Unsafe.class.getDeclaredField("theUnsafe");

    return field;

Let’s create an instance of Date via Unsafe.allocateInstance(Class<?> clazz) method:

Date epoch = (Date) ((Unsafe) field.get(null)).allocateInstance(Date.class);

Quite surprisingly, this will print 0, because the allocateInstance method bypasses the Java constructor!

By now one might question the integrity of the whole Java platform regarding final fields!

“What Happens Now?”

Here’s what happens when we instantiate a new object instance via new keyword in Java:

  1. At first, JVM tries to find a place for that new object in its process space.
  2. Then it executes the System Initialization process. In this phase, the newly created object would be initialized with its default values. For example, the timestamp value would be 0 at this stage.
  3. Finally, it calls the instance initializer and constructors. In this case, the constructor changes the timestamp value to the current epoch time.

For instance, the following code:

Date now = new Date();

Translates to the following bytecode

0: new           #2  // class me/alidg/Date
3: dup
4: invokespecial #3 // Method me/alidg/Date."<init>":()V

The first part, i.e. 0: new #2 // class me/alidg/Date, represents the system initialization phase. Additionally, the invokespecial is responsible for calling the constructor.

When using Unsafe, on the contrary, the constructor call would be skipped. Therefore, the Date instance would be initialized with its default values, enabling us to travel back in time!

No Time for Caution”

If we try to compile any code that exploits the Unsafe class, we might get the following warning from javac:

warning: Unsafe is internal proprietary API and may be removed in a future release

So stay away from Unsafe.