Lightening. This is off topic, but I don't have any other way to respond. I must apologize for the late response. I just noticed today that you had this question at the end of your post.
From an electrical point of view, there is no difference between lightening and the spark at the tip of a spark plug - other than size. Both are caused by a release of built-up energy. Just as a dam can fill with water slowly over several weeks or months, then release all of the water "instantly" when the dam bursts, an electric charge can build up to huge energy levels over time, then break free of what is confining it (air) in an instant.
Electron flow (what is usually referred to as "electricity") follows the path of least resistance. Even in a torrential downpour, there is way more space between individual raindrops that there is inside the raindrops. So the path from the ground to the sky looks like a very large number of very small conductors separated by air gaps. This is not a very good conduction path, although it is far better than dry air on a sunny day. A better conductor is a water-soaked tree or building. This is because a wet building is wet *everywhere*. There are no inch-long gaps between the water drops. A wet tree or building is a pretty good conductor, and provides a shortcut in the path from the ground to the sky.
But no matter how much water is in the path, water itself is not a great conductor. In fact, absolutely pure water is an insulator. Steel is much better, and copper is almost the best. So with a steel rod and a copper cable running from the roof to the ground, you can create a super-shortcut around a building. There are two important aspects of a lightening rod. 1. It has to be fat enough so that the first lightening strike doesn't melt the cable. 2. The connection to the earth must be very, very good. If this great big fat conductor runs around a building, but then doesn't connect to the ground well, it might as well not be there.
Throughout a rainstorm and the aftermath, relatively low resistance paths constantly form, break up, and re-form in the atmosphere. Sometimes the best *overall* path runs right past a tree or building, not through it.
Another reason lightening rods work is that the electron flow for a part of most "conventional" lightening runs from the ground to the sky. What we see is plasma which forms around the electron stream, from the sky to the ground. It travels much slower than the speed of light, which is why we can see it travel.
Anyway, since lightening is caused by a buildup of excess electrons in an area, the best way to get lightening to miss a building is to create a jumping-off point artificially. A pointed steel bar 10 or 20 feet above a building, with a fat braided copper cable running to a buried cast-iron water pipe is a great way to lead the electrons. The point at the end of the bar further concentrates the electrons, forcing a discharge before one can build up on the ground around the building. This is similar to setting off intentional small avalanches with a signal cannon before the snow can build up enough to cause real damage in a "natural" avalanch.
Here is a site with more information: