The most challenging and nonintuitive of all the concepts in the general theory of relativity is the idea that time is part of space. Our instinct is to regard time as eternal, absolute, immutable—nothing can disturb its steady tick. In fact, according to Einstein, time is variable and ever changing. It even has shape. It is bound up—"inextricably interconnected,"in Stephen Hawking’s expression—with the three dimensions of space in a curious dimension known as spacetime.
Spacetime is usually explained by asking you to imagine something flat but pliant—amattress, say, or a sheet of stretched rubber—on which is resting a heavy round object, such as an iron ball. The weight of the iron ball causes the material on which it is sitting to stretch and sag slightly. This is roughly analogous to the effect that a massive object such as the Sun(the iron ball) has on spacetime (the material): it stretches and curves and warps it. Now if you roll a smaller ball across the sheet, it tries to go in a straight line as required by Newton’s laws of motion, but as it nears the massive object and the slope of the sagging fabric, it rolls downward, ineluctably drawn to the more massive object. This is gravity—a product of the bending of spacetime.