I'm searching for a sci-fi short story. Back in about 1978, I read a story I'd swear was called "Footprints in the Sands of Time." I'm pretty sure it was written earlier, since it was in a class on classic science fiction. I think it was in a collection of short stories too. I've googled this and similar titles, but no luck.

The plot involves someone going back in time and leaving a capsule of radium behind to prove they made the trip. Time was described as a "coiled spring," where the successive turns were separated by 60 million years (I think).

  • Reminds me of a quote by Jo Ryan: "You can't leave footprints in the sands of time if you're sitting on your butt. And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?" – zzzzBov Jan 18 '19 at 16:07

This is P. Schuyler Miller's "The Sands of Time", published in Astounding Stories, 1937

This link, provides information that matches one of your clues:

A young man travels back to dinosaur era, & brings back souvenirs to prove it. He even buries a lead box containing radium in that period so someone can dig it out today as ultimate proof of his visit!

If this is the right answer, it's a duplicate of this question. If you read the answer there, you'll see that the story does indeed refer to time as "coiled".

According to its ISFDB page, it's been published in a few anthologies over the years, any of which could be where you read it.

  • 2
    I don't think the other counts as a duplicate as the details remembered are significantly different. Two questions can have the same answer and not be duplicate questions – Kevin Jan 18 '19 at 17:33
  • @Kevin Our policy on story-id dupe-closing is to close as duplicates (with the more complete Q/A as the target) when both have accepted (through checkmark or comment) the same work. – Jenayah Jan 18 '19 at 18:12
  • @Jenayah I think that's kind of silly, but if that's the policy then I guess this is a duplicate – Kevin Jan 18 '19 at 18:25
  • @Kevin dupe-closing isn't a punition. On the contrary, it might point future readers to more details on a work they're looking for, and keeps the story-id Qs together :) (we still have to wait for OP's acceptance on that one, though) – Jenayah Jan 18 '19 at 18:27
  • @Kevin The policy is fairly consistent with the intended usage of duplicate closing. The idea is that it funnels people who use different search strategies toward the info they all need and provides us Stack Exchangians a central location to curate the content. – jpmc26 Jan 18 '19 at 22:35

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