java - Why is subtracting these two times (in 1927) giving a strange result?

If I run the following program, which parses two date strings referencing times 1 second apart and compares them:

public static void main(String[] args) throws ParseException {
    SimpleDateFormat sf = new SimpleDateFormat("yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm:ss");  
    String str3 = "1927-12-31 23:54:07";  
    String str4 = "1927-12-31 23:54:08";  
    Date sDt3 = sf.parse(str3);  
    Date sDt4 = sf.parse(str4);  
    long ld3 = sDt3.getTime() /1000;  
    long ld4 = sDt4.getTime() /1000;

The output is:


Why is ld4-ld3 not 1 (as I would expect from the one-second difference in the times), but 353?

If I change the dates to times 1 second later:

String str3 = "1927-12-31 23:54:08";  
String str4 = "1927-12-31 23:54:09";  

Then ld4-ld3 will be 1.

Java version:

java version "1.6.0_22"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_22-b04)
Dynamic Code Evolution Client VM (build 0.2-b02-internal, 19.0-b04-internal, mixed mode)



Locale(Locale.getDefault()): zh_CN


It's a time zone change on December 31st in Shanghai.

See this page for details of 1927 in Shanghai. Basically at midnight at the end of 1927, the clocks went back 5 minutes and 52 seconds. So "1927-12-31 23:54:08" actually happened twice, and it looks like Java is parsing it as the later possible instant for that local date/time - hence the difference.

Just another episode in the often weird and wonderful world of time zones.

EDIT: Stop press! History changes...

The original question would no longer demonstrate quite the same behaviour, if rebuilt with version 2013a of TZDB. In 2013a, the result would be 358 seconds, with a transition time of 23:54:03 instead of 23:54:08.

I only noticed this because I'm collecting questions like this in Noda Time, in the form of unit tests... The test has now been changed, but it just goes to show - not even historical data is safe.

EDIT: History has changed again...

In TZDB 2014f, the time of the change has moved to 1900-12-31, and it's now a mere 343 second change (so the time between t and t+1 is 344 seconds, if you see what I mean).

EDIT: To answer a question around a transition at 1900... it looks like the Java timezone implementation treats all time zones as simply being in their standard time for any instant before the start of 1900 UTC:

import java.util.TimeZone;

public class Test {
    public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
        long startOf1900Utc = -2208988800000L;
        for (String id : TimeZone.getAvailableIDs()) {
            TimeZone zone = TimeZone.getTimeZone(id);
            if (zone.getRawOffset() != zone.getOffset(startOf1900Utc - 1)) {

The code above produces no output on my Windows machine. So any time zone which has any offset other than its standard one at the start of 1900 will count that as a transition. TZDB itself has some data going back earlier than that, and doesn't rely on any idea of a "fixed" standard time (which is what getRawOffset assumes to be a valid concept) so other libraries needn't introduce this artificial transition.

You've encountered a local time discontinuity:

When local standard time was about to reach Sunday, 1. January 1928, 00:00:00 clocks were turned backward 0:05:52 hours to Saturday, 31. December 1927, 23:54:08 local standard time instead

This is not particularly strange and has happened pretty much everywhere at one time or another as timezones were switched or changed due to political or administrative actions.

The moral of this strangeness is:

  • Use dates and times in UTC wherever possible.
  • If you can not display a date or time in UTC, always indicate the time-zone.
  • If you can not require an input date/time in UTC, require an explicitly indicated time-zone.

How do I get a Date without time in Java?

Do you absolutely have to use java.util.Date? I would thoroughly recommend that you use Joda Time or the java.time package from Java 8 instead. In particular, while Date and Calendar always represent a particular instant in time, with no such concept as "just a date", Joda Time does have a type representing this (LocalDate). Your code will be much clearer if you're able to use types which represent what you're actually trying to do.

There are many, many other reasons to use Joda Time or java.time instead of the built-in java.util types - they're generally far better APIs. You can always convert to/from a java.util.Date at the boundaries of your own code if you need to, e.g. for database interaction.

Here is what I used to get today's date with time set to 00:00:00:

DateFormat formatter = new SimpleDateFormat("dd/MM/yyyy");

Date today = new Date();

Date todayWithZeroTime = formatter.parse(formatter.format(today));

You can use the DateUtils.truncate from Apache Commons library.


DateUtils.truncate(new Date(), java.util.Calendar.DAY_OF_MONTH)

Convert string to Date in java

You are wrong in the way you display the data I guess, because for me:

    String dateString = "03/26/2012 11:49:00 AM";
    SimpleDateFormat dateFormat = new SimpleDateFormat("MM/dd/yyyy hh:mm:ss aa");
    Date convertedDate = new Date();
    try {
        convertedDate = dateFormat.parse(dateString);
    } catch (ParseException e) {
        // TODO Auto-generated catch block


Mon Mar 26 11:49:00 EEST 2012

it went OK when i used Locale.US parametre in SimpleDateFormat

String dateString = "15 May 2013 17:38:34 +0300";

SimpleDateFormat dateFormat = new SimpleDateFormat("dd MMM yyyy HH:mm:ss Z", Locale.US);
DateFormat targetFormat = new SimpleDateFormat("dd MMM yyyy HH:mm", Locale.getDefault());
String formattedDate = null;
Date convertedDate = new Date();
try {
     convertedDate = dateFormat.parse(dateString);
formattedDate = targetFormat.format(convertedDate);
} catch (ParseException e) {
// TODO Auto-generated catch block

String str_date="13-09-2011";
DateFormat formatter ; 
Date date ; 
formatter = new SimpleDateFormat("dd-MM-yyyy");
date = (Date)formatter.parse(str_date); 
System.out.println("Today is " +date.getTime());

Try this

Is a day always 86,400 epoch seconds long?

Whenever doing calendrical calculations, it is almost always better to use whatever API the platform provides, such as Python's calendar module, or a mature high-quality library, than it is to write "simpler" code yourself. Calendar APIs are ugly and complicated, but that's because real-world calendars have a lot of weird behavior.

For example, if it is "10:00:00 AM" right now, then the number of seconds to "10:00:00 AM tomorrow" could be a few different things, depending on what timezone(s) you are using, whether DST is starting or ending tonight, and so on.

Any time the constant 86400 appears in your code, there is a good chance you're doing something that's not quite right.

And things get even more complicated when you need to determine the number of seconds in a week, a month, a year, a quarter, and so on. Learn to use those calendar libraries.

According to Wikipedia,

UTC days are almost always 86 400 s long, but due to "leap seconds" are occasionally 86 401 s and could be 86 399 s long (though the latter option has never been used as of December 2010); this keeps the days synchronized with the rotation of the Earth (or Universal Time).

I expect that a double leap second could in fact make the day 86402s long, if that were to ever be used.

EDIT again: second guessed myself due to confusing python documentation. time.mktime always returns UTC epoch seconds. There done. : )

Number of seconds in a day depends on time system that you use e.g., in POSIX, a day is exactly 86400 seconds by definition:

As represented in seconds since the Epoch, each and every day shall be accounted for by exactly 86400 seconds.

In UTC, there could be a leap second included i.e., a day can be 86401 SI seconds (and theoretically 86399 SI seconds). As of Jun 30 2015, it has happened 26 times.

If we measure days by apparent motion of the Sun then the length of a (solar) day varies through the year by ~16 minutes from the mean.

In turn it is different from UT1 that is also based on rotation of the Earth (mean solar time). An apparent solar day can be 20 seconds shorter or 30 seconds longer than a mean solar day. UTC is kept within 0.9 seconds of UT1 by the introduction of occasional intercalary leap seconds.

If you define a day by local clock then it may be very chaotic due to bizarre political timezone changes. It is not correct to assume that a day may change only by an hour due to DST.